A Capital Idea: Why you should go to Washington D.C.




(Image courtesy of Destination D.C)


Washington D.C is the personification of American idealism. It's grand boulevards, marble monuments, and passionate people makes the district a must on any traveler’s list. I had the chance to speak with Elliott L. Ferguson, II the President and CEO of Destination DC to see why you should go to our nation's capital.



(image of Elliott L. Ferguson courtesy of Destination D.C)

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Here is a brief biography of Ferguson II from Destination D.C:

Elliott Ferguson serves as President and CEO of Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC. A 30-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, Ferguson leads DDC’s efforts to generate economic opportunity for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization’s convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations. Ferguson began his tenure with DDC in December 2001 as the Vice President of Convention Sales, became Senior Vice President of Convention Sales and Services in 2005 and has served as President and CEO since 2009. Prior to DDC, he was Director of Sales and Vice President of Sales at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and Director of Sales at the Savannah CVB.

Ferguson was National Chair of the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association from February 2019 to February 2021, where he guided the board and association’s efforts to advance policies that facilitate more international and domestic travel. He is currently chair of the compensation committee.

In January 2021, he was named Board Chair of Tourism Diversity Matters, an organization focused on creating diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities at all levels of the workforce. He has been instrumental in advancing conversations about race and racism throughout the hospitality industry.

As the tourism industry grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferguson is focused on strategic recovery with many organizations including DDC’s Recovery Advisory Committee, Connected DMV and the Downtown Recovery Work Group. He also serves on the board of directors of the following organizations: Advisory Board of the Smithsonian National Zoo; DC Jazz Festival; Ryan Kerrigan “Blitz for the Better” Foundation and the United Way of the National Capital Area. He represents DDC as part of the Hospitality Alliance of Washington, D.C. Ferguson received a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and Business Administration from Savannah State University. His many industry memberships include Professional Conference Management Association, International Association of Exhibition Executives, Destinations International, National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, Meeting Professionals International and American Society of Association Executives .

Ferguson and his wife, Telesa Via, also a hospitality industry veteran, are longtime residents of Capitol Hill. He is active with Capital Partners for Education, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Delta Sigma Pi.


Interview


1. Why should someone visit Washington D.C?

Washington, DC is the best city in the world. In normal times, visitors will find concerts, cultural events, unlimited amounts of American history, unparalleled free attractions and more across our vibrant city.

Washington, DC is easily accessible with a major train station and three airports nearby, but once you’re here, it’s even easier to navigate by Metrorail or hopping on a bike or scooter. I’m proud to say outside of the monuments, memorials and museums we’re known for, visitors will find local shops, cool marketplaces and people-watching hot spots by day, and multi-course Michelin starred dinners, drinks from local breweries and distilleries and vibrant nightlife.


(Image courtesy of Destination D.C)

2. How has DC adapted in the face of COVID-19?

Like most major cities, COVID-19 has affected Washington, DC heavily. From mid-March through January 2021, visitor spending was down 69% or $5.3 billion, and DC lost $400 million in tax revenue from visitor spending. According to STR, hotel revenue for that same time period was down 87%, or $1.6 billion.

DC is lucky that we have an incredible amount of green open-air spaces, waterfronts and attractions that are large enough to permit for safe social distancing.

This past year, we’ve seen our local businesses get creative. They’ve created “steateries” to accommodate outdoor dining, timed shopping experiences, and maneuvered live streams of holiday events, proving that the spirit of DC has remained intact. We remain positive and hopeful for the future and I’m proud that regardless of what phase of reopening we’re in, we’re still finding ways to support local businesses.


(Image courtesy of Destination D.C)

3, What are the top sites anyone should see in D.C?

No city provides as many world-class activities for free as Washington, DC. The nation’s capital has unmatched access to incredible free museums, monuments, memorials and one-of-a-kind events. No trip is complete with visiting one of the 16 Smithsonian museums or the National Zoo or taking in our stunning monuments and memorials and when things return to normal, our annual events and festivals.



(Image courtesy of Destination D.C)

4. How has D.C. tourism shifted its efforts during the pandemic?

There have been shifts in our messaging to prioritize safety, such as sharing with audiences that masks are required in DC. Once our advertising resumes, we will strongly prioritize the drive market.

During this time, we also launched our newly redesigned website, washington.org. Our website features captivating video and photography content to better engage consumers and ultimately inspire future visitation when the time is right.



(Image courtesy of Destination D.C)

5. What is the future of tourism in the district?

We’re cautiously optimistic about the future. Pending widespread acceptance of vaccines and that the recession doesn’t deepen, there is a chance we could see our domestic visitation numbers return strongly by 2022, according to Tourism Economics.

While this has been an incredibly harsh time, particularly on the hospitality and tourism industry, history tells us travel always bounces back - after depressions, wars and even 9/11. We do see pent up demand for travel, and luckily DC is a top destination. For 2021, we were named among the “Best Destinations in the World: The 2021 Gold List” byConde Nast Traveler and among “The 12 hottest destinations of 2021” by The Points Guy. We’re hopeful for the future.




(Images courtesy of Destination D.C)



Washington D.C. is a magical place. It combines veneration of the past and innovation for the future. Once I get vaccinated, I will have to come back to D.C.



(here is a picture of my family when we went to D.C. in 2013)

Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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