Destination DC Announces Record Visitation with Economic Impact

Nation’s capital surges past pre-pandemic levels with nearly 26 million visitors in 2023.
29th May, 2024

© The Wharf DC | Washington DC

More people visited Washington, DC in 2023 than ever before, Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organisation for the nation’s capital, announced today. Washington, DC welcomed 25.95 million total visitors last year, up 17% from 2022 and surpassing the pre-pandemic record set in 2019. The new benchmark resulted in a record $10.2 billion in visitor spending and supported a record 102,366 local jobs. 

“This is a major milestone for Washington, DC,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO, DDC. “Put simply, we are seeing the results of our increased marketing and sales efforts thanks to the tourism recovery district legislation, and the city is benefitting from increased tourism. There is still work to do, however, since international travel hasn’t fully recovered. The additional funding allows us to continue to entice international visitors who stay longer and spend more.”

Of the record 25.95 million total visitors, 24 million traveled domestically. That means domestic visitation has fully rebounded to 105% of 2019 figures. International visitation continues to trend towards pre-pandemic levels. The 1.95 million international visitors indicate an 85% return, but a 40% increase year-over-year. International travelers typically stay longer and spend twice as much as their domestic counterparts.

The data underscores the importance of increased tourism to the city’s economy, with visitor spending up 29% and local jobs created from tourism up 25% year-over-year, respectively.

“We are proud to show millions of visitors every year why Washington, DC is the most important city in the world,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Tourism is critical to our city’s vitality, yielding jobs for our residents, dollars for our local businesses, and revenue for our investments in a stronger DC. As we continue to share the story of our city and create fantastic destinations for our visitors, we are grateful to Destination DC and all our hospitality partners for the work they do every day to remind people that there’s only one DC.”

DDC launched its award-winning creative campaign, “There’s Only One DC,” last November, positioning DC as wholly unique and spotlighting its diversity of experiences and free things to do. Additional funding through the tourism recovery district has enabled DDC to ensure the messaging reaches potential travelers. “There’s Only One DC” has the largest reach of any DDC campaign to date. 

Campaign content connects to, where potential visitors discover hotel dealsevent listingsdining and itinerary inspiration. Travelers can book stays directly at Editorial coverage complements paid and owned channels. 

The new data was revealed during DDC’s Travel Rally, held annually with the U.S. Travel Association, which focuses on ways to make travel easier and promotes the industry’s importance to communities across the country.

“Travel is a driver of economic success, as reflected in the strength of visitation to Washington, DC and in communities across the nation,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association. “We will continue to focus on growing this critical sector, which supports jobs for more than 15 million American workers, benefits local businesses, and fuels other industries which depend on travel to help them thrive.”

The event took place at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, celebrating its 20th year on the National Mall and opening a new exhibit called Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains on June 1. Next month’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 26-July 1) celebrates the living traditions of Indigenous peoples in recognition of the anniversary.  

“This is an exciting year of anniversaries for the National Museum of the American Indian,” said Cynthia Chavez Lamar, the museum’s director. “From the 2024 Smithsonian Folklife Festival to our new exhibitions and exciting programs, we hope everyone will join us to celebrate Indigenous cultures.”

This summer is also highlighted by the reopening of the Folger Shakespeare Library (June 21), a Capitol Hill landmark which holds the world’s largest Shakespeare collection. DC boasts a packed calendar of iconic festivals and events, particularly over holiday weekends, as well as a star-studded sports schedule. Capital Pride (May 31-June 9) will serve as a prelude to WorldPride, a two-week festival that could bring millions to the nation’s capital in 2025. In addition, the 75th NATO Summit will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (July 9-11). 

A new tech-driven White House visitors center, The People’s House, opens this fall, as does the city’s first Arlo hotel (October). The highly anticipated Salamander, along the revitalised Southwest Waterfront, is expected to complete its phased enhancements. The famed St. Regis, Four Seasons and Capital Hilton have all unveiled renovations. Exciting rebrands include the Hotel Nell – Union Market and Hotel AKA Washington Circle. In 2026, Washington, DC will host a yearlong celebration commemorating America’s 250th anniversary throughout the city’s cultural institutions, museums, attractions, restaurants and hotels.

DDC’s news coincides with an announcement from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: two giant pandas are returning by the end of the year. The Zoo will be one of only two in the U.S. to see the beloved animals, and the only one with free entry.

Washington, DC Visitation Data: * 

  • In 2023, DC welcomed a record 25.95 million visitors (24 million domestic; 1.95 million international)
  • In 2022, DC welcomed 22.1 million total visitors (20.7 domestic; 1.4 million international).
  • Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, DC welcomed 25.1 million total visitors (22.8 million domestic; 2.3 million international).
  • In summary, total visitation is up 17% year-over-year and up four% compared to 2019. 

Visitation Impact:  

  • Visitors spent a record $10.2 billion in 2023.
    Up 29% year-over-year and 111% of 2019.
  • Visitors supported a record 102,366 jobs in 2023.
    Up 25% year-over-year and 134% of 2019. 

International Visitation (2023): 

  • Top international markets (in descending order): Canada, United Kingdom, India, Germany, France, South Korea, Mexico, Italy, Spain and China. 

*Sources: MMGY Travel Intelligence, S&P Global Market Intelligence, National Travel & Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce 

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