Having written so often on D.C. over the past few years has made me feel like the city has no secret for me anymore. But seeing it ‘in the flesh’, wandering its streets and meeting the people that make it up has actually opened my eyes on how the US capital actually positions itself when it comes to business events.
The ‘Connected Capital’ campaign Destination D.C., the city’s official destination marketing agency, is still surfing on is actually spot on: Washington, D.C. —home to the country’s most educated population— is where you go to cultivate connections that matter. As a knowledge and innovation hub, meetings of all kinds and formats in the technology, biotech/pharmaceutical, education and medical sectors have all reaped the benefits of DC’s unique venues and direct access to industry movers and shakers.
When asked about what makes the destination – and its institutions – so special, Melissa Riley, vice president of conference sales and services at Destination D.C, explains: “In Washington, D.C., we can provide products and services that associations won’t find anywhere else, so potential organizers and delegates alike can see the value and meaning of coming to Washington. Organizations will easily gain access to industry leaders, providing senior speakers for instance, and finding voices in Washington on issues they advocate for.”
This ‘Connected’ sales positioning also enables to tap into international insights from D.C.’s numerous associations while providing experts and experiences that can elevate the profile of an organization meeting in the city,
Dizzy with choice
And when associations do choose D.C. for their next event, they have plenty of choice regarding the venues that will host them.
First and foremost is the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the city’s main conference venue. Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., it includes 77 breakout rooms and the largest ballroom in the region at 52,000 square feet. Combined, its three concourse-level exhibit halls have 473,000 square feet of usable space. Level two halls have 230,000 square feet of contiguous square feet, or room for 1,000 10’x10′ booths.
Right next door is the 14-story Washington Marriott Marquis which opened in 2014. It includes 1,175 guest rooms (!) and 100,000 square feet of meeting space with an underground passage to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and provides an ideal addition to the city’s main conference venue, with its 80 event rooms, the largest of which accommodates up to 3500 people. Across the street is also the Renaissance Hotel, which is currently undergoing a major top-to-bottom renovation.
The good news doesn’t stop here: more than 26 new hotels or renovations are underway, adding more than 5,892 new or renovated rooms across eight districts.
Culture wise, the city has also witnessed tremendous changes: the East Hall of the National Gallery of Art reopened in June; the Kennedy Center debuted an interactive permanent exhibition dedicated to President John F. Kennedy, and the second phase of the Docklands opened in October, with Here comes the new Pendry Hotel and fine dining.
As for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, it has also reopened, with eight new exhibit halls (beware of the lines!), while the refurbishment of the Sculpture Garden at the Hirshhorn Museum has begun.
In terms of accessibility, the Metro Silver Line, which connects Washington Dulles International Airport to downtown Washington, D.C., is finally set to open just days before Thanksgiving on November 15. The airport, meanwhile, will add a $675 million LEED Silver-certified terminal in 2026.
“Washington, D.C. is definitely growing in new investments, hotels, arts and culture, dining and nightlife, and free events,” concludes Melissa Reily. “This will help us attract more international conferences to Washington, D.C., which in turn will bring huge benefits to our city’s booming industry and intellectual capital.”