Washington, D.C., is not only for associations anymore. Beyond the federal government, it is home to more than 1,000 startup companies, top investors in tech and biotech groups, 185,000 high-tech employees and 27,000 cybersecurity jobs. To the CVB, Destination DC, it is high time Washington’s meetings scene reflects those facts.
“We’re looking at Washington, D.C., as an innovation capital,” says Melissa Riley, the CVB’s vice president of convention sales and services. Armed with white papers filled with research to lure tech and medical meetings, the nation’s capital is making a major push to draw both group segments. With 20 citywides booked for 2017, the CVB is off to a smart start.
Hosting the government can’t hurt the cause either. The president’s name adorns one of the city’s many new luxury hotels, after all. And with Smithsonian institutions and embassies available as off-site venues, Washington looks to have what it takes to associate itself with corporate events for the foreseeable future.
Riley says the sweet spot to book citywides is seven to 10 years out. The list of incoming conferences is impressive. In 2017, 21 citywides will have a $357 million economic impact with almost 485,000 room nights. Among the citywide highlights in recent and upcoming years:
> American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting March 2016
> American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session & Expo March 2017
> Microsoft Inspire July 2017
> Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting November 2017
> American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting December 2018
> IEEE International Microwave Symposium June 2024
> American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition August 2025 and 2028
Line of Luxury
Willard InterContinental remains D.C.’s grand dame, but it’s gained some company in the luxury market. Consider these new properties, which Riley says are proving to make Washington an incentive hot spot for international groups.
Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. preceded its namesake’s arrival on Pennsylvania Avenue by a few months. The five-star hotel is less than a mile from the White House and a short walk to the National Mall.
The Watergate Hotel debuted last spring along the Potomac River. With 27,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel is near The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a stellar reception venue or evening entertainment option.
Marriott’s first hotel in Washington, Washington Marriott Georgetown, upgraded its 18 meeting rooms as part of a $28 million redesign. Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott International also opened a JW Marriott in 2015 and a Marriott Marquis—the city’s biggest hotel—in 2014.
Kimpton Donovan Hotel, near McPherson Square, renovated its 5,000 square feet of function space in March. The 193-room hotel includes a rooftop bar.
As part of its efforts to separate itself from government affairs, the city is promoting its neighborhoods as destinations in their own right. Among them:
CityCenterDC near Gallery Place/Chinatown is building a retail and dining portfolio designed to keep attendees in the central location. A 360-room Conrad Hotel—the Hilton luxury brand—is slated to open in 2019. It will include a restaurant from local chef Bryan Voltaggio.
The Wharf will bring groups to the L’Enfant Plaza area when it opens in October, predicts Riley. An InterContinental Hotel will be the largest of three hotels (combined 4,500 rooms) on-site. “The Wharf does a lot to enhance an underdeveloped and underutilized area,” says Riley. The area will also have a 3,000-sq.-ft. music venue available for receptions, plus the International Spy Museum will be moving nearby in 2018.
H Street NE is the most vibrant of Washington’s burgeoning districts. The new DC Streetcar runs through the 1.5-mile stretch that’s home to Atlas Performing Arts Center, Rock & Roll Hotel music venue, and several hip restaurants and bars.
No matter your industry, you can’t help but take advantage of certain Washington trappings. The Smithsonian and a wide range of embassies remain staples for receptions and banquets, says Eric Kincaid, Destination DC’s corporate sales manager. “Where else can you eat at the Chinese embassy?” he says of D.C. Four options to consider:
National Museum of African American History & Culture opened in September 2016. Individual tickets are hard to come by, so renting it out gives attendees an added perk.
National Gallery of Art’s East Building reopened with a new roof terrace last year after a three-year renovation.
House of Sweden in Georgetown—with views of the Potomac River, Kennedy Center and Air Force memorials—includes 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space for up to 500 attendees.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute proves there’s more to D.C. than donkeys and elephants. The giant pandas will be a draw for outdoor events.