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D.C. sees record 22.8M visitors in 2017, city’s tourism arm says

This was a 3.6 percent increase over 2016

The Washington Monument as seen from the Tidal Basin during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival
Bill Chizek/Shutterstock

The numbers are in: In 2017, for the eighth year in a row, the District set a record for total annual visitors—22.8 million in all—the city’s marketing and tourism arm said on Tuesday.

The tally grew by 3.6 percent as compared with the year before, according to Destination DC. Both domestic and overseas tourism rose, by 4.2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, to 20.8 million domestic visitors and 2 million overseas visitors (meaning those from places other than Canada and Mexico). Business and leisure travelers are included in these counts.

The travelers spent $7.5 billion last year, Destination DC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson says in a statement. Their expenditures represent a 3.1 percent increase over those in 2016. Tourism “directly supported” more than 75,000 District jobs last year, per Destination DC.

China was the top country for overseas visitation, with 324,000 people, or 6.6 percent more than in 2016. After China, the overseas countries that sent the most visitors are: the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, France, Australia, India, Japan, Spain, and Italy. Overseas visitors represent roughly 9 percent of the overall number of visitors to the District in 2017.

Still, politics may have had an impact on international tourism to D.C. last year. “While we were thrilled to see growth in overseas visitation, we are faced with certain realities about the political climate and how the U.S. is perceived from a global perspective,” says Ferguson. “That’s why we’re doing everything we can to welcome the global community and increase our representation internationally in established and emerging markets.”

A spokeswoman for Destination DC explains that the organization uses different datasets for domestic and overseas visitors. Every quarter, DK Shifflet—a McLean, Virginia-based tourism research firm—surveys people across the country about where they traveled in the previous three months. As for the overseas numbers, London-based analytics firm IHS Markit reviews data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and similar surveys of travelers to the District.

On Tuesday, Destination DC also provided a glimpse of a new advertising campaign called “Discover the Real DC” by unveiling a video. The campaign targets domestic markets along the East Coast and in Chicago and Los Angeles.

The video features D.C. celebrity chefs José Andrés and Tim Ma, “godfather of go-go” Chuck Brown, and half-smoke purveyor Ben’s Chili Bowl. You can watch it below.