Washington D.C. Draws New Citywide Conferences in 2018


Washington, D.C., is gearing up to host a slew of citywide conventions and meetings in 2018 that are coming to the capital for the first time. Among the new incoming groups are True Value Company, the International Gas Union, and the American Geophysical Union. Each event will host 2,500 attendees or more next year. “Washington, D.C., will welcome 21 citywide conventions and special events in 2018, with 422,434 total room nights and an economic impact of $361 million,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of Destination DC (DDC). “Our sales team is also focused on short-term corporate bookings, and significant recent wins include Nestle in May and Subway in August.”

Nestle moved its U.S. headquarters to the D.C. area in 2017 to be closer to “business operations, our customers, and other important stakeholders,” the company’s chief executive, Paul Grimwood, said in a statement. And the destination is attracting a bunch of other industry leaders as well. “DDC will continue positioning the city as a knowledge hub in four markets, [including] technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical, education, and medical,” said Danielle Davis, director of communications for Destination DC. “DDC is working closely with its Ambassador Circle members that help champion global bids to roll out these efforts.”

Ranked as the third-best tech city in the United States by Cushman & Wakefield’s Tech Cities 1.0 report, Washington, D.C., affords meeting organizers access to expert speakers, federal policymakers, and industry sponsors. This was helpful when the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) held its 2017 Annual Meeting at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Oct. 9–11. “Being in the national capital region makes it easier for us to get the most qualified speakers on the subject of the Army’s current status and future needs and requirements,” Michael Scanlan, AUSA’s senior director of meetings, told Convene.

In addition to political resources, D.C. is home to a vibrant and thriving startup scene, made up of more than 1,000 tech companies. Plus, the city ranks first in the nation for growth entrepreneurship, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Also, in July, CBRE named D.C. as No. 1 for women in tech, according to its Tech Talent Scorecard. These accolades have attracted new and diverse groups to the city.

One company that’s taken notice of D.C.’s growing tech resources is leading cloud-based software company Infor. It’s never hosted its annual meeting in D.C., until now. “Organizers were surprised to learn about the depth of D.C.’s technology industry and alignment of the city with its customer base,” said Melissa A. Riley, vice president of convention sales and services for Destination DC.

To keep up with the influx of citywide groups, Washington, D.C., is completely revamping its landscape with $11.8 billion in development already underway and more than 4,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline. The Wharf, offering 17,000 square feet of meeting space, opened in October, transforming the city’s Southwest Waterfront, which includes four rentable public piers and a new performance venue, The Anthem, with flexible capacity for 2,000 to 6,000 delegates. In addition, three new hotels will soon add 690 rooms to the city’s inventory, including the 278-room InterContinental Washington, D.C., the 175-room Canopy by Hilton, featuring a 3,300-square-foot outdoor terrace, and the 237-room Hyatt House, offering 1,695 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

Washington, D.C.’s arts and entertainment scene will also be expanding. The Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler galleries reopened on Oct. 14 and the Museum of the Bible opened Nov. 17, which includes a ballroom that seats up to 1,000 people. Also coming up in 2018 is the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, Jan. 15–Feb. 15. Led by the area’s premier theaters, the festival features works by female playwrights to “highlight the scope of new plays being written by women,” according to its site, “and the range of professional theater being produced in the nation’s capital.”

In 2017, D.C. placed among the top three North American meeting destinations, according to STR’s 2017 DestinationMAP (Meeting Assessment Program). Conference organizers cited D.C.’s safety and attractiveness as assets of the destination, in addition to being easily accessible and affordable. The city was also named the first LEED Platinum City in the World in August by the U.S. Green Building Council, due to its environmentally forward-thinking practices. Meeting planners can utilize energy-reducing and recycling programs at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and attendees can stay at eco-friendly LEED certified properties like the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., and area Kimpton Hotels.

“Washington, D.C. provides an excellent venue for national associations to meet here,” Scanlan said. “The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is a world-class facility, and is staffed by seasoned professionals who know how to deliver. The hotel community is exceptionally supportive. The city itself is a terrific destination in its own right, and Destination DC provides all the help you could ask for.”