You are here

Record Domestic Visitation to DC Is Good News for Restaurant Industry

June 14, 2018

Destination DC announced 20.8 million domestic visitors in 2017, generating $7.5 billion in visitor spending

Domestic visitation to Washington, DC has achieved an eighth consecutive record-breaking year, according to Destination DC (DDC), the official tourism marketing organization for the city.

With DC’s culinary scene as hot as ever and travel to the city accounting for 20.8 million domestic visitors last year, dining establishments can expect significant business from customers outside of the 202 area code.

According to IHS Markit, out of a total of $7.5 billion in visitor spending in 2017, lodging generated $2.67 billion and dining fell just behind that at $2.18 billion. Food and beverage sales comprised 29 percent of all visitor spending, emphasizing the important role dining plays as part of the visitor experience in Washington, DC.

As a result, DDC continues to work closely with the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington to highlight food and drink experiences to potential visitors near and far. From supporting the RAMMY Awards to Restaurant Week, DDC targets visitors with culinary content in key markets, including New York City, Philadelphia, Richmond, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“Destination DC is an economic development organization,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of DDC. “Our marketing and sales efforts are aimed at bringing more business and leisure visitors to the nation’s capital, who spend nights in our hotels, dine out, and take advantage of DC’s incredible nightlife and world-class attractions on the National Mall and throughout DC’s neighborhoods.”

The culinary buzz has extended across the country and world, picking up momentum in 2016 as Bon Appétit named DC the “Best Restaurant City of the Year,” Zagat designated the District as the “Hottest Food City” and DC became only the fourth U.S. city with a Michelin Guide.

DDC tapped into the food-focused explosion in 2017 by creating a suite of content on, including the Chefs Dish DC video series, a collaboration with food media company ChefsFeed.

Coinciding with the culinary accolades and DDC’s promotion of dining experiences in 2017, food and beverage sales by DC visitors increased by 4.1 percent year over year. Dining remains a key component to DDC’s advertising with a variety of relevant content, including a guide to Michelin-starred restaurants, where to eat near the convention center, neighborhood dining guides and rooftop bars and restaurants.

One thing Washington, DC has that many other great food destinations lack is a well-connected culinary community that thrives on collaboration and supporting one another. DDC’s marketing efforts help to support this community through local jobs. In fact, tourism has a significant impact on the local job force and sustained 75,048 DC jobs in 2017, up 0.5% over 2016 and surpassing 75,000 for the first time since 2013.

Next up for DDC is executing its summer advertising campaign, the organization’s most ambitious leisure campaign of the year, which runs through Labor Day. The campaign positions Washington, DC not only as an exciting dining city, but also a premier global destination with one-of-a-kind summer festivals and events, incredible arts and culture as seen in The Arts District video series and a waterfronts hot spot.