We’ve redesigned Washington.org to inspire international travellers and keep DC on top of their minds: President, Destination DC

Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC chats exclusively with Travel News Digest about keeping the spirit of tourism alive during a global pandemic and plans for tomorrow.

What efforts did Destination DC take to keep its Indian travel trade partners engaged throughout the pandemic? 

 Through Indiva Marketing, DDC’s in-market representation, Destination DC has continued destination training for our partners and tour operators in India to keep them engaged and up to date with the local happenings.

We recently launched an online-based travel agent training program to provide certification for travel agents and to help them better understand the city’s unique offerings. Travel agents in India and around the world will be able to better match travellers’ special interests and travel styles with a personalized Washington, DC experience.

In the coming weeks, we will host a virtual FAM tour focused on Spring in DC specifically for the Indian travel trade. In April, we will host a webinar presentation in conjunction with Brand USA focusing on city breaks with an emphasis on food and beverage as well as entertainment.


Would Destination DC look at any virtual/hybrid roadshow for its global markets in the coming days? If yes, which markets would it cover? 

 We are currently doing one-on-one virtual sales calls with key accounts and tour operators across all our international markets. These calls keep us updated on the status of every market and allows us to maintain our relationships. We are discussing additional opportunities to engage the international travel trade and include participation from some our hotel and attractions members.

Tell us a little bit about the newly launched website aimed at keeping prospective travellers hooked to Washington, DC. 

We recently completed a full redesign of Washington.org. While international travellers search for inspiration, the new washington.org will help Washington, DC remain top of mind among potential visitors.

 Visitors to the revamped washington.org will experience optimized navigation and search, and up-to-date information about the city, including the latest travel status and safety measures in place at travel-related businesses. New long-form stories, photography and video create an interactive experience on the site. For the convention audience, business event strategists find enhanced meetings and convention tools. Group tour operators can prepare before visiting with virtual itineraries and, in the future, take advantage of additional educational content.


What kind of industry development (across hospitality and travel services) took place in Washington? 

 Washington, DC has seen several hotels open in the past year including luxury properties like the Riggs Washington DC and the Thompson Washington, DC. In the next few months, three new hotels will open in the city: The VEN at Embassy Row, Kimpton Banneker and the Cambria Hotel Washington D.C. Capitol Riverfront.

Arts and culture milestones in the coming year include the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution, the 125th anniversary of the DC Public Library System, the 100th anniversary of The Phillips Collection and the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Center. Amtrak, the only long-distance intercity passenger railroad in the U.S., celebrates 50 years.

 Later this year, the Metro’s Silver Line expansion will connect Washington Dulles International Airport to downtown Washington, DC.


What are some of the upcoming events that one should watch out for? 

Some of DC’s signature events will be reimagined this year to align with safety protocols. The National Cherry Blossom and the annual Funk Parade have announced plans for a hybrid event with both virtual and in-person programming. Information on these and other events is always available on Washington.org.


When do you expect tourism to restart and which traveller group will your focus be on? 

 According to Tourism Economics, international visitation to the United States is not expected to reach its prior peak until 2025.

International tourism continues to be extremely important for Washington, DC. Though overseas visitors only represent seven per cent of the total number of visitors to DC, international visitors [overseas visitors plus visitors from Canada and Mexico] represented 27 per cent of visitor spending for 2019.

Prior to COVID-19, India was Washington, DC’s third overseas market, according to visitation data from 2019.


Are you planning to take part in any travel/trade show in 2021? 

Currently, we plan to attend a few key and primarily domestic tradeshows in their virtual format We will also participate in some of the activations proposed by Brand USA and we plan to attend U.S. Travel’s IPW 2021 later this year.


What’s your message for the Indian travel trade community? 

Once the pandemic subsides, we will be ready to welcome visitors back to Washington, DC.

Some Indian travellers will be looking for family-friendly destinations as well as budget-conscious experiences, two things that Washington, DC is especially known for.  In addition to our incredible dining scene and the entertainment options the city offers, visitors to the District will be able to experience the city’s monuments and memorials as well as our collection of Smithsonian museums which are all free of charge.

We have also seen several new attractions open over the past year that have yet to be experienced by Indian travellers including the Planet Word Museum, the world’s first voice-activated museum as well as the National Children’s Museum.