Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for the USA capital, is a private, non-profit membership organization of 1,000 businesses committed to marketing the area as a premier global convention, tourism and special events destination with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historic communities. DDC, the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC, and partners announced the current impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry and steps toward recovery once travel is safe, in their website. In our special report from the last issue, we interviewed Mr. Elliott L. Ferguson, president and CEO of DDC, about the travel status update and the four-stage reopening plan for the city.
HQ: How did this general stalemate caused by the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business as a meeting destination?
Elliott L. Ferguson: Obviously, this is an unprecedented crisis that has severely impacted the travel industry. We continue to feel the effect of groups that are unable to meet face-to-face and the climate remains uncertain as the pandemic continues into the spring, which is typically DC’s peak season. The economic impact of lost business booked by Destination DC totals at least $78.4 million and will likely grow. The eight upcoming large-scale groups that have recently canceled are:
HQ: How are you countering all this situation to overcome the current crisis?
ELF: Even with the crisis ongoing, we’re developing a recovery plan. Right now, we’re evaluating our advertising budget and trying to find ways to make sure that when business goes back to normal, we have the resources to promote DC globally and domestically.
Following the lead of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who has tasked DC Health and DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency with leading the response, DDC has been sharing daily statements outlining the latest information with staff to utilize with clients, members and stakeholders as they see fit. DDC is also sharing email updates with its 1,000+ members regularly.
We’re actively updating our content on washington.org/dctogether to encourage folks to explore the virtual side of DC and support local businesses from home. On social media, #DCTogether gives us a chance to reflect on things in which individuals can do in our community right now. We have daily conversations and are communicating with industry partners, including Events DC, the U.S. Travel Association, the Hotel Association of Washington, DC, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and our members to align on recovery efforts as well as Mayor Bowser’s efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
HQ: After this step back, what is the strategy and main goal that your Bureau will apply to return to its original form? Or do you see this setback as an opportunity for change?
ELF: The pandemic might have a lasting effect on the global tourism industry. Like our travel industry counterparts, Destination DC is being impacted and has to make tough and necessary decisions to remain viable as an organization. Many of the small businesses that help make DC’s tourism industry are faced with closures and relief efforts are crucial from a local and federal perspective. DDC is working with U.S. Travel, Events DC, Brand USA, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and other industry partners to actively develop a strategy to market the nation’s capital to help mitigate the short-term loss in business and long-term strategic recovery. The team is working closely with its international representation around the world including DC’s top overseas market, China, to be poised for recovery once travel resumes.
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