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Hospitality and Tourism

The hospitality and tourism industry is one of DC’s strongest sectors, supporting almost 75,000 jobs in the District, including many jobs for those without college degrees.1 The three main sub-sectors of the industry are accommodation (15,000 jobs), food services such as restaurants (52,000 jobs), and arts and entertainment (8,200 jobs). In 2015, spending on accommodations grew by 5.3%, food and beverage by 5.1%, and entertainment spending by 2.6% over 2014.2

The number of visitors to DC has increased each of the previous five years, including a record 21.3 million visitors in 2015 – a record high that includes more than 2 million overseas visitors.3 Visitor spending in 2015 totaled $7.1 billion – the fifth consecutive year that it surpassed $6 billion.4 This represents more than $757 million in new tax dollars for the District. The District continues to perform strongly as a center for meetings, conventions, and exhibitions, as well as in the areas of medical and education-related travel. 2016 saw a total of 15 large city-wide conventions with an estimated total economic impact of $277.9 million, while 21 city-wide conventions with an economic impact of $357 million are expected in 2017.5

While the traditional tourist attractions of the city and the convention and events business continue to drive this sector, growth in the sector was also boosted by the rise of DC’s restaurant and nightlife scene. The city’s dining scene is gaining international attention, named “Restaurant City of the Year” by Bon Appétit, and recently became the fourth North American destination to receive a Michelin Guide to its restaurants. In addition, cultural assets, such as theater, festivals and other performance arts, offer opportunities to expand tourism across the District.

The DC metro area is also a major center for the corporate functions of the hospitality industry. The corporate headquarters for major hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Choice Hotels, and Host Hotels are all located within the DC metro area.


Visit the initiatives page and filter Core Sector by “Hospitality and Tourism” and “All” to see initiatives that support this sector.  You can also filter Opportunity Area by “Hospitality Innovation” to see additional initiatives that support this sector.

Major Trends Affecting the Sector and Implications

Increasing use of technology in hospitality

Trends: Millennials are estimated to spend $200 billion each year on tourism and hospitality by 2017, beating out baby boomers as the generation spending the most and thus driving key trends in growth in the sector. Driven by Millennials – 85% of whom currently own a smartphone – customers have been drawn to the convenience of services such as Airbnb because of their convenience, mobile accessibility, and user-friendliness. Traditional hotel chains such as Starwood, Hilton, and Marriott are also embracing technology to customize the travel experience.6 7 There is also convergence between digital startups and analog travel and hospitality organizations, through strategic affiliations and alliances such as the Hilton-Uber and KLM-Airbnb partnerships.8 The data collected through these tech enhancements can be used to identify guest preferences and to drive insights from predictive analytics for long-term planning and revenue enhancement.9

Implications: The increasing integration of technology into all aspects of the hospitality business creates opportunities for the District to grow technology firms and foster technology partnerships that transform or augment the hospitality space, building on its well-educated talent pool and the presence of major hospitality brands.

Expansion in variety and location of food and nightlife scenes

Trends: Over the past five years in particular, the District has seen a surge in the number and variety of restaurants, including healthy eating concepts, up-and-coming fast-casual options, new food halls, and artisanal markets. The District had more than 2,100 food-service and drinking establishments as of 2014, up 29% from a decade earlier, and 3 of the top 100 nightclubs and bars by revenue in the country. 10 11 The restaurant scene in DC has expanded across the city from the once top dining destination of Dupont Circle, to 14th St, Capitol Hill, and other neighborhoods.12 Perhaps appropriately for the home of go-go and hardcore punk music, nightlife and bars have also emerged as drivers of economic growth in neighborhoods such as the H Street Corridor (anchored by the Atlas Theater) and the U Street Corridor (anchored by the U Street Music Hall and the 9:30 Club). In fact, 2015 was a banner year for DC’s hardcore punk scene after breaking nationally and introducing a new crop of artists and cache.13

Implications: There are opportunities to market attractions and DC destinations beyond the traditional tourist attractions (e.g. museums) to travelers – for example the neighborhood restaurant scene and thriving theater and cultural sector.


  1. DC Press. “DC Travel Rally Proclaims Impact of Hospitality & Tourism.” 3 May 2016. <>
  2. Destination DC. Washington, DC Tourism Statistics. Accessed 19 December 2016. <>
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. DC Press. “Destination DC Announces Record 2015 Visitation and 2017 Plans at the Annual Marketing Meeting.” 24 August 2016. <>.
  6. Deloitte. 2016 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook. Deloitte, 2016. <>.
  7. Hospitality Technology. “Three Tech Trends Driving Hospitality Biz in 2016”. 4 January 2016. <>.
  8. Deloitte. 2016 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook.
  9. Edwards, John. “The Hospitality Industry is Getting a High-Tech Makeover.” BizTech. 7 July 2016. <>.
  10. Ramanathan, Lavanya. “How Washington, of all places, became a city of day drinkers and Casual Tuesdays.” The Washington Post, 28 July 2016. <>.
  11. National Club Industry Association of America. “Our Industry”. Accessed 19 December 2016. <>.
  12. Hayes, Laura. “Eastbound and Down in Dupont Circle.” Washington City Paper. 8 September 2016. Accessed 10 September 2016. <>.
  13. Knox, Ron, “The State of D.C. Hardcore”. NPR, 24 March 2016.