D.C. tourism going strong

Tourism revenue in D.C. is growing, numbers out Tuesday show. Industry groups say they worry proposed tax increases could hurt the industry.


(Photo: Associated Press)

New numbers show tourism in D.C. is stronger than ever: 15 1/2 half million people visited Washington last year. The tourism industry employs some 61,0000 people and generates more than $600 million in taxes for the city.

“D.C. is right up there in the top ten. It's one of those destinations that people around the world have to come to,” said Roger Dow, president of the U.S. travel association. “They're buying the T-Shirts, the post cards, they're going on tours, going to a movie, going to a show and it just drives the economy.”

People in the industry are concerned proposed tax increases could hurt tourism. As the city faces a $322 million budget gap, Mayor Vincent Gray is proposing to raise or create 13 taxes, including an increase in the parking tax and a new tax on live theater events.

“Arguably, anything that is perceived as negative by those that may consider a trip to D.C., we are going to monitor closely,” said Elliott Ferguson, president of Destination D.C.

City leaders insist they must look at all options to help balance the budget. “As you know, D.C. has limited opportunities to do taxes, so we think to do the responsible thing, to get our budget where it needs to be we could look at some areas that need additional tickets and sales tax revenues,” said Ward 5 councilmember Harry Thomas.

With all options still on the council's table, one group hopes fixing city finances won't come at their expense.

“We really are a source of revenue, bringing people to the city who actually spend money in our restaurants and hotels and that generates more taxes for the city, so we have to be very careful not to stimmy that at all,” said Greg O’Dell, head of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority.

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