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Tourists Spent $5 Billion in D.C. Last Year

September 20, 2006

Capital Is Attracting Singles and Empty-Nester Travelers, Nonprofit Group Says

By Chris Kirkham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; B04

Tourist spending jumped nearly 5 percent last year, pumping an estimated $5 billion into the District's economy and cementing tourism as one of the key economic drivers in the city, according to a survey released yesterday.

By paying taxes in Washington's restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, last year's 15.4 million visitors contributed more than 40 percent of the city's total sales tax revenue and created almost 60,000 full-time jobs, according to numbers from the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corp., a private, nonprofit corporation that represents tourist industry businesses.

The survey also found District tourists and business travelers to be better-educated, wealthier and more willing to spend money than travelers elsewhere in the country. The renaissance in many urban neighborhoods has allowed the tourism group to focus on more than families and grade-school civics classes.

"Where the new opportunity exists is with empty nesters and young, single travelers who want an urban, edgy, trendy travel experience," said William A. Hanbury, president of the tourism group. "It's not just about the monuments and memorials on the National Mall."

The study was based on a survey of 75,000 people conducted by a travel consultant group and the Travel Industry Association of America. The group has presented similar findings in previous years, but this is the first time the study focuses solely on tourism spending in the District rather than the overall metro area.

Hanbury said the narrower scope was intended to give District officials a clear picture of tourism's contribution to the local economy. The hope is to get more investment from the D.C. government.

International travel to the District has grown slowly. Only 8 percent of all visitors last year were foreigners, as post-Sept. 11 visa policies and attitudes toward the United States have crimped growth. But the money spent by international travelers is considerable, representing a quarter of the total spending by all visitors.

Business travel grew 4 percent from 2004 to 2005, compared with a slight drop in leisure travel.
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