New and Expanded Infrastructure Increases Washington D.C.’s Events Appeal
Washington D.C. has been a destination for events of all sizes for decades. Now, the city is in the midst of another growth spurt which is adding new hotels, venues and destinations of interest to corporate groups and leisure travelers alike.
I recently spoke with Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, Washington D.C.’s official destination marketing organization. Ferguson talked at length about the exciting new developments that are continuing to make the city a hotspot for corporate events.
One of the benefits of the redevelopment and new development projects, including neighborhoods like CityCenterDC and The Wharf district, is opening up new areas for events. It’s not just the venues themselves, said Ferguson, it’s the neighborhoods.
“If you’re a meeting planner who is accustomed to hotels in certain areas around the convention center, you’re now able to consider other areas like The Wharf or Southeast Washington,” Ferguson explained.
He added, “These areas may never have been on your radar before because we didn’t have the infrastructure in place — but now we do. ”
2018 saw two new arena venues open in Washington D.C.: The Entertainment and Sports Arena, a 4,200-seat venue that serves as home court for the Washington Mystics, and Audi Field, the new home of the DC United soccer team. A $300 million stadium, Audi Field seats 20,000 and includes 500,000 square feet of mixed-use retail and event space.
The city also has twenty new hotels with more than 4,500 guest rooms in the pipeline (a few of which opened in 2018). Notably, two properties that will be able to host mid-size meetings will be opening in the first quarter of 2019.
CityCenterDC is a ten-acre luxury mixed-use development located just a couple of blocks from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Conrad, slated to open in February, will offer 32,000 sq. ft of meeting space, 360 guest rooms and a rooftop bar with views of the Capitol. The hotel will also feature Estuary, a restaurant from Top Chef alumni and James Beard nominee brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts is also opening Hilton Washington DC National Mall, formerly the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. It will include 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, a ballroom that can hold up to 600 attendees, and 367 guest rooms.
Expansions and new builds aren’t limited to arenas and hotels. The International Spy Museum recently moved to a new space in L’Enfant Plaza, doubling its footprint. New event space is already available for booking, and the museum upgrade will be complete in Spring 2019.
Another option for planners looking for special event activities is the new National Law Enforcement Museum, opened in Oct. 2018. And of course, there are the Smithsonian museums, perennial favorites.
Ferguson said that one of the reasons planners should consider Washington D.C. is ease of transportation. Located along the eastern seaboard, with hundreds of direct flights, three area airports (DCA, IAD and BWI) and rail service, it’s easy for visitors to get there. And as the city is so compact, it is easy for people to get from place to place whether by walking, public transit, taxis or ride services like Uber or Lyft. According to Ferguson, many groups have done away with shuttle buses in favor of giving attendees pre-paid Metro passes.
And for anyone flying into Dulles International Airport (IAD), the Silver Line Metrorail extension project is good news. When the second phase of the expansion is complete — hopefully on schedule in 2020 — visitors will be able to take the Metro from IAD all the way into the city.
For planners who aren’t certain which properties will best meet the needs of their group, or who are looking for recommendations for anything from hotels to transportation providers to entertainment, Destination DC offers free recommendations and RFP distribution services. And they aren’t confined to the city limits: the organization also works with hotels and venues located in the suburbs.
“Our organization makes it easy for you, because we’re one-stop shopping,” said Ferguson.
He added, “Not only do we have a guide that showcases all the unique venues in the city, we also send leads to all those potential venues that meet your criteria. But your information is always private and confidential — we only share RFPs with the venues that are the right fit for you. We exist to make planners’ lives easier, and we’re always happy to help. ”
For more information on holding meetings in Washington D.C., go here.