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Washington DC, the Capital city of the United States of America


The capital city and only federal district of the USA

In Washington, the DC stands for “Dining Capital”. A quick tour of the city - any part of the city - will reveal more big-name national chains, as well as uniquely Washington restaurants than ever before. Washington has gradually become one of the biggest restaurant towns in the nation, thanks to major catalysts like the MCI Center and extensive downtown revitalization. Whether you choose to dine at a cozy indoor bistro or on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Potomac River, you'll find deli- cious alternatives, ideally suited to serving a relaxed meal. You'll find variety and affordability in traditional restaurant mec- cas such as Georgetown, Capitol Hill and Adams-Morgan.

There are also more options on the Southwest Waterfront, and in the Downtown-Chinatown core. Not to be outdone, the nearby suburbs in Virginia and Maryland have joined the restaurant craze... with new choices of sophisticated and varied cuisine. Truly the American dining experience. More than 300 area restaurants are listed here, grouped by cuisine; American, Barbecue, Cajun, Caribbean, Chinese, Continental, Creole, Ethiopian, French, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Seafood, Southwestern, Spanish and Thai;bon appetit!

From theater and jazz to monuments and museums, from hiking and biking to tremendous shopping, Washington, DC offers year-round adventures for visitors of all ages! DC weather features long summers and short winters. Warm weather months are jam-packed with fun festivals and free music. Winters offer smaller crowds and the best in cultural events. Of course, DC is always spectacular in the spring and fall, when you'll see amazing flowers throughout the city's spacious parks and broad, tree-lined avenues. Welcome to Washington, DC: The American Experience.

Visitor Volumes

This section of the report analyzes the trend in Washington DC visitor volume, overall and for business and pleasure travel. 2000 saw some significant shifts in volume, most notably with pleasure travelers. The Washington, DC metropolitan area hosted an estimated 17.6 million domes- tic visitors and 1.6 million international visitors in 2000. The estimate of 17.6 million domestic visitors is based on 1,151 household survey responses. Therefore, the range of error for this estimate is + or - 3 percent.

In 1999, visitor volume to the Washington, DC area dropped from the high of 21.2 million in 1998 to 19.8 million, consistent with figures from 1997. This represented a 6.6 percent decline. For 2000, volume is estimated to be only slightly lower than 1999, at 19.2 million, a 3 percent decline. These volume shifts are occurring in roughly equal proportions in both domestic and international travel.


Overall visitor volume is highest during the middle of the year with 28% of total volume occurring in each of quarters two and three. This represents the months of April through September. When we consider volume in terms of business and pleasure travel different patterns emerge. Business travel concentrates in the first half of the year with 28% of business volume occurring in each of the first twoquarters. Pleasure travel, on the other hand, is concentrated in the third quarter when 34% of visits occur. 2000 saw a shift in pleasure travel. The rate of pleasure travel in the first quar- ter increased to 17% (from 12% in 1999) while travel in the second quarter decreased to 23% (from 29% in 1999). This resulted in a reduction in overall volume in the second quarter, which had been the largest single volume period in 1999.

Business and Pleasure Visitor Volumes

The decline in domestic volume in both 1999 and 2000 is largely due to declining numbers of pleasure visitors. By comparison, business volume decreased only slightly during this same timeframe.

Top Markets

In this section, the top originating states and cities, as defined by Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) are reviewed. Washington DC continues to draw from both nearby states and distant locations, with business travelers more likely to travel long distances.

Top States of Origin

The top two states of origin for Washington DC each provide one in ten of the total visitors to the area. Virginia and New York continue to be the top states of origin. There appears to be a pattern of slight decline occurring in Pennsylvania and California over the past three years, both are at 7% after hav- ing been at 10% and 9% respectively in 1997. North Carolina is showing an increase over the past three years, up to 7% from 4% in 1998. Business/convention travelers are more likely than pleasure travelers to come from California, Arizona, Texas and Missouri. Pleasure travelers are more likely than business/convention travelers to come from Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Top DMAs of Origin

New York and Philadelphia remain the top advertising markets for Washington DC, providing the highest percent of both business and pleasure travelers with overall volumes of 11% and 6%, respectively. Norfolk is a strong third with 5% of overall volume, leaning somewhat toward pleasure travelers. Though Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago overall fall into the middle tier of advertising markets, they are stronger in business travel, providing 4-5% of business/convention volume each. Atlanta and San Francisco also provide pro- portionally more business/convention volume than overall numbers would indi- cate. Pittsburgh and Raleigh, on the other hand, provide more pleasure volume. Hotel volume tends to track with business volume. The Washington DC DMA is included in this chart for reference. Local visitors (traveling 50 miles or more one way, from home, or overnight, and not com- muting) account for 6% of volume overall and are skewed (not surprisingly) toward pleasure trips. Overall, this is as much volume as is provided by Philadelphia, the second highest DMA, but a significantly higher volume of pleasure visitors, providing 8% of overall pleasure volume.

Trip Characteristics

This section of the report includes analysis of a variety of trip characteristics. Four key areas are reviewed: Primary purpose of visit, primary transportation used, party composition and travel behavior characteristics, which includes trip duration, lodging, activities, spending, group tours and other states visited. Pleasure visits, while they have slightly declined in volume since 1999, main- tain a similar share of overall volume in 2000. On the other hand, the propor- tion of business visitors has increased. In addition, business traveler behaviors have changed, with proportionally more business travelers using hotels in 2000 than in the past.

Primary Purpose of Trip

Pleasure visitors continue to comprise more than one half (53%) of domestic visitors to Washington, DC Pleasure visitors are travelers whose purpose is vis- iting friends and relatives, entertainment or outdoor recreation. One-third (34%) of domestic visitors came for business/convention purposes, and five percent combined business and pleasure. The remaining nine percent traveled to Washington, DC for other reasons. Compared to national totals, DC has significantly more business/convention visitors (34% in D.C vs. 17% nationally) and less pleasure visitors (53% vs. 66%). The proportions of business and pleasure travel have remained consistent at the national level since 1999. Pleasure trips have declined since 1998, dropping to just over 9 million. Business/convention volume is steady at just under 6 million. There was also a decline in trips taken for other purposes in 2000. Nationally, pleasure trip vol- ume remained steady (656 million in 1999 vs. 658 million in 2000) while busi- ness volume has declined (174 million vs. 166 million).

Primary Mode of Transportation

In 2000, just over half of visitors (53%) used autos as their primary mode of transportation to Washington, DC Four in ten (39%) of Washington, DC domestic visitors traveled by air. Those using rental cars as their primary trans- portation represent only 4% of all visitors to DC, but 11% of visitors use rental cars as a secondary form of transportation. Auto is the dominant form of transportation for pleasure visitors to Washington, DC (71%). Air is the dominant form of transportation for business/convention visitors and has increased in 2000, up to 68% from 63% in 1999. Eighteen per- cent of business/convention trips to DC included a rental car as a secondary mode of transportation. Washington DC pleasure visitors use autos as a primary mode of transportation less than the national average (71% vs. 83%). Business travelers to DC travel by air more often than the average business traveler (68% vs. 36%). Overall, primary use of rental cars is similar in DC compared to the U.S. but secondary use among business travelers is higher (18% in DC vs. 13% in the U.S.).

Travel Party Composition

The majority of trips to Washington DC in 2000 involved only one member of a household (64%). (Other non-household members may have been part of the trip.) Consistent with this pattern, only about one in ten trips includes children under the age of eighteen.

Travel Behavior Characteristics

Behavior measured in this report includes Trip Duration, Lodging Use, Activities, Spending, Group Tour Use and Other States Visited.

Trip Duration

Of 2000 domestic trips that included an overnight stay in Washington, DC, an average of 5.0 nights were spent on the entire trip. An average of 3.8 nights were spent in Washington, DC (or 76% of the total trip duration). This has increased slightly over 1999 figures. Three out of ten Washington, DC visitors (30%) did not stay overnight in Washington, DC, similar to previous years.

Lodging Used

The majority (70%) of visitors to Washington DC stay at least one night. In 2000, two thirds (64%) of overnight visitors to Washington, DC stayed in a hotel, motel or bed & breakfast, an increase over 1999 (59%). Thirty-five per- cent of visitors lodged at a private home. Hotel/Motel/B&B use on overnight trips is higher in Washington DC (64%) than in the U.S. as a whole (52%). Business travelers’ use of Hotel/Motel/B&Bs increased considerably in 2000 (72%) compared to 1999 (65%). Pleasure travelers’ use of Hotel/Motel/B&Bs also increased slightly (25% compared to 23%). These increases helped offset the overall decrease in visitor volume so that Hotel/Motel/B&B volume remained strong. Washington DC pleasure travelers are more likely to be on a day trip compared to pleasure travelers in the U.S. as a whole (35% no overnight in DC vs. 16% in the U.S.).


Visiting Historical Places/Museums is the number one activity for visitors to Washington DC (30%). Visitors are twice as likely to visit a Historical Place or Museum in Washington DC as U.S. travelers overall. While shopping is the sec- ond most popular visitor activity in Washington DC (22%) it is the number one activity nationwide. Overall, DC visitors are less likely to shop (22% DC vs. 33% U.S.), to participate in outdoor activities like hiking and camping (4% vs. 17%) or to attend sports events (1% vs. 6%).


The average trip expenditure in Washington, DC by domestic visitors in 2000 was $439 (includes day trips), similar to 1999. Trips with spending of $500 or more, considered “big-spend” trips, made up one third (33%) of trips to the DC area in 2000. One-fourth (25%) spent less than $100 in 2000 and 14 percent spent $1,000 or more.


Of all Washington DC domestic visitors, 5% were on group tours (0.9 million visitors), up two percentage points from 1999 (3%, 0.6 million visitors).

Other States Visited

Four out of ten DC visitors also visited Virginia (42%) and/or Maryland (38%) on the same trip. One in ten (11%) included Pennsylvania on their DC trip. North Carolina was less popular as a destination on a Washington DC trip in 2000 (3% vs. 7% in 1999).

Pleasure Vs. Business Visitor Characteristics
Lodging Used in DC Area by Domestic Visitors

Almost three-quarters (72%) of business/convention visitors stayed in a hotel/motel/B&B, while one-fourth of pleasure visitors did so (25%). Of those who stayed in a hotel/motel/B&B, business/convention visitors aver- aged higher durations in the hotel/motel/B&B (3.6 nights business/convention vs. 2.9 nights pleasure).

Mode of Transportation of Domestic Visitors

Auto remains the dominant form of transportation for pleasure visitors to Washington, DC at 71%. Air use has increased as the primary form of trans- portation for business/convention visitors at 68%, up five percentage points from 1999.

Amount Spent in DC Area by Domestic Visitors

Business/convention visitors spent significantly more in Washington, DC ($603), on average, than pleasure visitors ($271). This represents a 3% increase in average business/convention spending ($585 in 1999).

Origin of Domestic Visitors

The top states of origin for pleasure visitors to Washington, DC included Virginia (15%), New York (10%), Pennsylvania (9%), North Carolina (9%) and New Jersey (6%). The top states of origin for business/convention visitors included California (10%), Virginia (8%), New York (8%) and Texas (7%).

Traveler Demographic Profile

Almost three-fourths of DC domestic visitors have a household head with a college degree or higher (71%), and three-fifths of DC visitors are married (59%). One-third (33%) of DC visitor households have children under 18 at home. On average, the DC visitor’s household head is 46 years old. DC visitors have a median annual household income of $61,900. Business/convention visitors are much more likely than pleasure travelers to be a college graduate and to have higher household incomes. They are also more likely to be married and between the ages of 34 and 54. Pleasure travelers on average are older, have lower household incomes and are more likely to have children at home. Compared to U.S. domestic travelers overall, DC visitors tend to be more educated and from higher income households.