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Washington DC reveals future strategy for overseas conference market

Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC spoke exclusively to M&IT about the US city’s future strategy and new developments.

Washington DC is currently the number one US city for international association meetings, according to the 2018 ICCA Statistics Report. For 2019, the US political powerhouse has a number of initiatives to attract international convention centres. These include 18 new hotels with around 4,000 new rooms.

Ferguson points to the vital link between business travel and leisure pursuits. “Convention markets are strong especially if the tourism market is strong, because there is more of a demand for shopping or theatre or take the train to New York.

“I live on Capitol Hill amongst the lawmakers – we love to dispel the perception that everything in DC is about politics,” he told M&IT.

In 2017, Washington DC attracted two million overseas visitors, an increase of 2.5 per cent from the previous year.

The UK market is the second largest for us,” says Ferguson. “There are 170,000 visitors each year from the UK to Washington. It’s easy to get there as it’s a seven and a half hour flight.”

The sectors that do well in Washington DC are pharma, finance and biotech says Ferguson. “With resources like IMF, national institutes of health, and a plethora of associations that are headquartered in Washington, it is a very good opportunity for the MICE market to come here.”

The technology sector saw the strongest activity followed by medical in the 2018 fiscal year.

Ferguson added: “It’s a very good alternative to the East Coast market – that’s where we compete in terms of price, resources and the world’s top speakers.”

A key factor is ease of access to Washington DC. Visitors to the US city can fly nonstop from nine key markets.

In May 2019, United Airlines launches a nonstop air service from Tel Aviv. Cathay Pacific now has a nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Dulles International Airport. By 2020, the Silver Line Metro extension at Dulles Airport will take passengers straight to DC city centre.

For further information, visit Washington DC.

HOTELS OPENING IN 2019

  • The Conrad Washington, DC
  • Hilton Worldwide hotel situated in CityCenter DC: with 360 guest rooms
  • 32,000 square feet of meeting space and rooftop bar with Capitol views
  • Hilton Washington DC National Mall: 367 rooms in L’Enfant Plaza, 23,000 square feet of meeting space, grand ballroom accommodating up to 600 guests

2020 OPENINGS

  • Thompson Hotel: 225-room near the Capitol Riverfront; 4,000 square feet of meeting space
  • citizenM: Dutch hospitality brand; 252-room hotel near The Wharf
  • SLS Hotel: Design-focused 12-story building with 175-room property on floors. The mezzanine and cellar will include amenities and a 5,500-square-foot ballroom

NEW VENUES IN 2019

  • International Spy Museum
  • Penn Quarter – L’Enfant Plaza: 140,000 square feet, more than double the space of the original building.
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; The REACH Expansion: $175 million expansion project includes 72,000 square feet of performance and events space; 130,000 square feet of landscaping and gardens; Terrace seating for up to 1,600 people and a scenic walkway leading to nearby monuments and memorials.
  • CityCenterDC Phase II: Phase II includes 30,000 square feet of additional retail space