Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC, announced efforts to attract new international meetings to the nation’s capital during IMEX America (Oct. 16-18). DDC shared key takeaways from its first advisory council collective in Washington, DC (Oct. 10-13), announced plans to enhance its sales positioning by focusing on DC’s leading business sectors and has new MICE representation in China.
Washington, DC - An Industry Knowledge Hub
In 2017, DDC shifted its sales strategy beyond dates, rates and space to highlight the city as a leader in DC’s key industries: technology, biotech/pharma, medical and education. DDC’s convention sales and services team successfully recorded over 100,000 definite room nights and over 100 leads with technology seeing the strongest activity followed by medical in FY2018.
“Aligning our sales efforts with DC’s local business economy is working,” said Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO, DDC. “That’s why we’re launching three new sectors of focus early next year – transportation, government advocacy and sustainability.”
Content, convention trade advertising and advertorial, earned media efforts, new white papers and collateral will continue to support the sales team’s efforts, all housed on washington.org/meetings.
DDC’s international sales team is committed to attracting more international groups to meet in Washington, DC. Both the new International Business Council (IBEC), which launched at IMEX Frankfurt in May 2018, and the Ambassador Circle, position DDC for success.
DDC hosted its first IBEC Collective, a three-day strategy session designed to engage its advisors in think-tank style discussions to examine actual bids, brainstorm messaging and experience DC’s knowledge economy assets first-hand. The participants included influential industry association leaders, major corporate and incentive agencies, heads of event departments and top trade publications that have the knowledge of international business events and can assist with market development as messengers for the city.
“Participants gave us invaluable feedback that will help us shape how we position ourselves in the marketplace,” said Melissa A. Riley, vice president, convention sales and services, DDC. “We uncovered broader international insights in a creative and experiential environment, exploring some of DC’s new and innovative assets such as the LINE DC, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, Mess Hall at Union Market and the Hilton Hotel Room of the Future.”
Comprised of top innovators, researchers and scholars, members of the Ambassador Circle are experts in their field who lead bids. New to the network of noteworthy professionals in the region is Dr. David Skorton, the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who has joined as the Ambassador Circle Patron to help recruit other executives. Bids won by local ambassadors include the World Congress of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery in 2021, the General Session of the International Association for Dental Research in 2020 and the International Astronautical Congress in 2019.
There are currently 37 new international congresses booked for the city in the coming years such as the Congress of the International Society of Forensic Genetics in 2021 with an estimated economic impact of $2.6 million.
Top Overseas MICE Markets
In 2017, Washington, DC welcomed a record 22.8 million visitors, including 2 million overseas visitors, up 2.5%. DC’s top 10 overseas meetings markets in 2016 are, in order of visitation: the UK, India, Japan, China, France, Germany, Netherlands, South Korea, Brazil and Israel. Ease of access is a key factor. Currently, visitors can fly nonstop from the top nine markets, increasing to the top 10 in May 2019 when United Airlines launches nonstop air service from Tel Aviv. Last month, Cathay Pacific began its first nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Dulles International Airport.
“Overseas delegates made up more than 10% of DC’s 2 million overseas visitors in 2017,” said Ferguson. “China is our top overseas market overall, and we recently invested in the China MICE market further by announcing that Sino Media will represent DC in FY2019.”
World Gas Conference
In addition to formalized programs, DDC will utilize a case study showcasing the success of the recent World Gas Conference held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in June 2018.
The World Gas Conference brought more than 10,000 attendees from 100 countries to the convention center, driving over $11.4 million in economic impact. The group utilized various venues across DC for its conference including transporting Union Station from a train station into an opening reception stage, highlighting the city’s neighborhoods and involving DC’s various embassies.
“Our goal for this year’s World Gas Conference was to put on a world-class event in a world-class city,” said Jay Copan, executive director of WGC 2018. “We exceeded that goal. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is the most impressive venue that has hosted any of our conferences and Destination DC and Events DC have truly exceptional, friendly and professional teams.”
The meetings portion of washington.org has undergone an extensive overhaul. Planners can find new sustainable meetings resources to private dining for intimate groups, and listicles including 18 Unique Boardrooms with Natural Light for your Next Meeting and 17 Venues to Host Outdoor Meetings.
In 2019, DC will welcome 21 citywide conventions and special events (2,500 room nights on peak and above), generating 359,557 total room nights and an estimated economic impact of $341 million. Major events include the American Academy of Dermatology (March 1-5), NAFSA: Association of International Educators (May 28-31), American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (Oct. 21-25) and American Society of Nephrology (Nov. 8-11).
There are 20 hotels in the pipeline adding 4,555 rooms to the city, including Residence Inn & Courtyard by Marriott and the Moxy Washington, DC Downtown, both anticipated to open later this year.
New attractions, renovations, and exhibits are a draw. The National Law Enforcement Museum opened Oct. 13. The International Spy Museum moves to L’Enfant Plaza and reopens next spring. The Washington Monument reopens next spring and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s “Fossil Hall” reopens in June. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ expansion (the REACH) opens Sept. 7, 2019.