Washington, DC: Knowledge Capital

Ellie Evans discovers how Washington, DC is getting smart about winning meetings…

It’s the United States’ most educated city and now Washington, DC is using brain power to maintain its position at the top of the class.

Home to more than 400 think-tanks and 1,000 tech start-ups, the nation’s capital has long focused on its technology, biotech/pharma, education and medical strengths: DNA Alley, the nickname for the North I-270 Technology Corridor, is the site of 170 biotech companies, and it boasts a heady list of incubators, accelerators and innovation labs.

At the end of 2018, Washington was named along with New York City as the future home for Amazon’s new base, to be housed three miles from downtown DC in Arlington, Virginia.

And for the coming year the city will be positioning itself as a knowledge hub with an emphasis on three new sectors: sustainability, transportation and government advocacy.

“DC is a global stage for amplifying an association’s message and advocacy efforts, involving not only policy leaders but more than 170 embassies and several large convention hotels that accommodate all conference spaces and guest rooms under one roof,” says Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO of Destination DC.

“As a world-class city with iconic monuments and memorials, incredible museums, political prowess, foreign embassies, historic neighbourhoods and revered universities and colleges, it’s no surprise DC is a front-runner as an international meetings destination.”

Washington was named the top city Stateside for international meetings in the 2017 ICCA Statistics Report, and it’s not resting on its laurels – Destination DC unveiled its new International Business Events Council programme at IMEX last May in a bid to win more business, primarily from the UK, India, Japan and China.

There are currently 37 international congresses booked for the city, including the Congress of the International Society of Forensic Genetics in 2021 with an estimated economic impact of USD$2.6m.

Bids won by its Ambassador Circle – which recently welcomed Dr David Skorton, the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, as its patron – include this year’s International Astronautical Congress, the General Session of the International Association for Dental Research in 2020 and the World Congress of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery in 2021.

The city has a wealth of impressive venues that celebrate its heritage, including the DC Armory which can seat up to 10,000 for theatre-style events, but its biggest draw for major conferences is the modern Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the downtown Shaw district, which offers 2.3m sq ft of event space across its 77 meeting rooms.

There are currently more than 32,600 hotel rooms in the city itself, some 6,000 of those within a mile of the centre, including the Marriott Marquis, a four-star hotel with 1,175 rooms connected to the convention building. There are a further 18 hotels (and almost 4,000 rooms) in the pipeline, among them the Conrad Washington, DC which is due to open this month with 360 rooms and 32,000 sq ft of meeting space as well as a rooftop bar and lounge.

Two international airports also help boost Washington’s appeal: in May, United Airlines will launch direct flights from Tel Aviv, and Cathay Pacific recently began its first non-stop flight from Hong Kong.



Tara Miller

Senior Manager of International Sales, Destination DC

T +1 202 789 7062