D.C. tourism is surging past pre-pandemic levels, the report shows

D.C. welcomed a record number of visitors last year as tourism recovered from a sharp pandemic-era decline, the city’s marketing department announced Wednesday.

A new report from Destination DC shows that nearly 26 million people visited the district in 2023, up from 22.1 million visitors in 2022. The 2023 figure represents a nearly doubling of tourism from the 2020 low of 13, 3 million people came to the capital during a time of Covid-related closures and travel restrictions.

The previous record was set in 2019, when there were 25.1 million visitors.

About 24 million of last year’s visitors were domestic travelers, while 1.95 million were international visitors, the report found. In 2022, there were approximately 20.7 million domestic visitors and 1.4 million from abroad.

The city is especially interested in attracting international visitors, says Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO of Destination DC, because they play an outsized role in strengthening the local economy. According to an earlier report by the marketing group, foreigners typically make up 7 percent of the city’s visitor numbers but are responsible for 27 percent of spending. “They stay longer, spend more and we want them back,” Ferguson said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“That increase in visitors is not happening by accident, but through very concerted efforts,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said during the meeting. news conference. She noted that visitors generated $10.2 billion in spending, which supported more than 102,000 jobs, according to the Destination DC report.

The recovery comes as city officials and residents are concerned about increased crime in recent years and high commercial vacancy rates combined with changing work patterns.

In a Washington Post-Schar School poll, residents said they are more concerned about public safety now than they were a year ago. Violent crime rose 21 percent from 2021 to 2023 before falling in early 2024, city data shows.

The same poll found that many residents have chosen to work from home, a move that has left downtown D.C. with a glut of empty offices, which some employers have abandoned. According to the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, the vacancy rate for downtown office space is just over 21 percent, and one forecast estimates that it could reach 27 percent within three years. Empty storefronts serve as a stark reminder of the challenges the city faces in rebuilding its economy.

But Bowser said the city’s future remains bright. “If you come to Washington, D.C., you will be able to see new hotel offerings and more restaurants, and you can expect even more large events and gatherings,” she said Wednesday.

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