Heads together: Washington, DC

Meeting industry leaders in Washington, DC, have identified four areas of expertise they hope will attract international conventions to the city – and the strategy is already paying off, writes James Lancaster

Destination DC (DDC), the membership-based destination marketing organisation, has pushed technology, biotech/pharma, education, and medicine into centre-stage for 2018.

The organisation has published promotional material, including four white papers, that describes the benefits of meeting in DC for associations and societies working within these sectors.

The decision to focus on the intellectual assets of the city – rather than logistics – can be seen in the context of the meetings industry moving ‘upstream’ in its attempts to attract business.

The DMO is also working with its Ambassador Circle members to spread the message.

Doctor Jeffrey Jacobs was instrumental in bringing the World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery to Washington, DC, in 2021. He said the chance to ‘educate others’ inspired him to help bring the rotating congress – which is held every four years – to the United States.

“Every time I go into the operation room to operate on little babies I have the opportunity to save a  life. But the opportunity to educate others is an opportunity to save  hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. And the motivation to be able to teach others is the motivation to host the World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery in the United States,” he said.

Washington, DC – The Knowledge


The DC region is home to more than 1,000 tech start-ups, five of the top 100 investors in start-up companies, and venture capital firms, such as Revolution and The Carlyle Group

High-tech employment is two-and-a-half times more concentrated in the DC area (compared with the US in general) with 185,000 high-tech workers and 27,000 cybersecurity jobs


DC is home to more than 180 medical associations, organisations and foundations

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the most revered medical facilities in the US, provides more than $30billion in funding for extensive research across the medical field


The area’s life science cluster – DNA Alley – is home to some 170 biotech companies and pays the wages of almost 60,000 private sector and government employees

R&D makes up the majority of life science employment in the metro area and pharma, medicine and vaccine manufacturing are amongst the most rapidly growing industries


There are 21 higher education institutions in DC and more Bachelor’s degrees, or higher, are issued here than in any other US city, according to The Washington Post.



Washington Dulles International Airport, 42 km west of downtown Washington, is the main airport for overseas arrivals. Overseas flights also go into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, 51 km from Washington. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, five kilometres from downtown, is the major domestic connection with other US cities.

Metrorail and Metrobus are the cleanest, safest and most efficient transportation systems for getting around the city.


There are plenty of hotels of all standards and 18 are adding 4,000 new rooms this year and beyond.

Key venues

Walter E Washington Convention Center: three ballrooms seating 4,600 theatre-style combined, 77 breakout/meeting rooms, five exhibition halls.

Washington Marriott Wardman Park: multiple meeting and breakout rooms, ballroom seating up to 3,300 theatre-style and 9,000 sqm of exhibit space.

Washington Hilton: multiple meeting and breakout rooms, ballroom seating 4,050 theatre-style and 3,900 sqm of exhibit halls.

Marriott Marquis Washington, DC: 80 event rooms, the largest seating 3,500 theatre-style.

Key industries

Biotech/pharma, technology (DC is home to over 1,000 tech startups and top city for cybersecurity tech startups), medical and education. The DC metro ecosystem can help support and enhance meetings in these segments.


Washington DC offers customised packages appropriate for each specific organisation, giving special attention to those which fill a need period or are a short-term opportunity. Packages often include financial incentives and concessions such as travel discounts, welcome banners, promotional support and complimentary visitor guides and maps.

Worth a visit

The US Capitol, various monuments and the Smithsonian museums including the newest, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.