We know that the federal government shutdown has been unkind to D.C.’s economy, but most of the evidence so far has been anecdotal. Tourists have been spotted wandering the National Mall aimlessly in search of diversion in the absence of national monuments and museums to visit; surely, others are taking the hint and canceling their trips to the District. Destination DC, the nonprofit that carries out D.C.’s marketing for tourism and major conventions, has heard that many tour groups have been looking to scrap or postpone their visits to D.C., and so it launched a campaign on Friday to drive home the message that “D.C. is open for business.”
Now we have a number to back up the hearsay. According to Destination DC’s Alicia Malone, hotel occupancy was down 9 percent during the first week of the shutdown from a year earlier. “However,” Malone cautions, “it’s difficult to say how much of that can be directly attributed to the shutdown.”
Still, there’s no other obvious cause for the dropoff, particularly when tourism and conventions in D.C. were previously growing. And while 9 percent is hardly whopping, it’s not insignificant when D.C. hotels brought in $1.56 billion in revenue in 2011, which gets taxed at a 14.45 percent rate by the city. As the shutdown continues, the impact could continue to deepen as more potential visitors decide they might be better off traveling to cities whose main attractions are actually open.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery