With this week's inauguration of Donald Trump expected to
attract protestors and supporters alike to Washington, the mood among visitors
to the nation's capital will be decidedly mixed.
The mood among Washington hoteliers, however, will be
Destination DC, the city's destination marketing
organization, said last week that it was not yet ready to make a prediction as
to how many people would show up during inauguration weekend, but federal and
local officials said they were planning to accommodate one million visitors.
While that's short of the record 1.8 million who attended
the 2009 inauguration of president Barack Obama, hundreds of thousands are
expected to flock to attend various protests in and around the National Mall.
Overall, visitation to the city this week could triple
typical midweek numbers, according to travel insurance provider Allianz Global
Kannan Sankaran, Washington-based managing director of CBRE
Hotels Consulting, said, "This inauguration will have more of an influx of
folks from out of the District. The number of supporters won't be much
different, as there will be more or less the same amount of Trump people as telling
us they are on track with the 2013 inauguration, when D.C. hotels were about
67% full," said Vanessa Casas, international media relations manager for
Destination DC. "Some hotels are fully booked, but there is still
availability left in the city."
Exploding prices might be even more drastic on Airbnb. As of
last week, a one-bedroom apartment listing near Capitol Hill that typically
charges $190 a night was asking for more than $1,200 for Jan. 19.
Still, the boost in demand will spell good news for lodging
operators in a market where, until this year, growth in room revenue had lagged
the country's, primarily as a result of government austerity measures.
Following the federal government's so-called "sequestration"
in 2013, the city's hotel market saw a drop in RevPAR, after which its RevPAR
growth trailed the country's in both 2014 and 2015.
Meanwhile, the city's hotel supply rose to 110,000 rooms as
of last November from almost 99,000 at the time of Obama's 2009 inauguration.
In addition to the Watergate and Trump International,
notable newer and updated properties included the Marriott Marquis Washington,
which opened in 2014, and the Mayflower, which completed a $20 million
renovation in 2015.
Those hotels have started to benefit from increasing
visitation numbers. The city attracted 21 million visitors in 2015, the most
recent year tracked. That was an annual record and marked the sixth consecutive
annual increase as more leisure travelers, especially from overseas,
complemented the city's traditional government base of visitors.
"The city's doing a good job penetrating the leisure travel
market," Sankaran said, adding that the opening of the Marriott Marquis
has helped Washington better market itself as a convention-ready city.
As for best facilitating the movement of all the visitors
expected around the inauguration, Destination DC recommended that in lieu of
driving, people use the Metro or the capital's bikeshare program. The Metro
will be operating with extended hours on Inauguration Day, opening at 4 a.m.,
and running until 9 p.m.
Destination DC also advised visitors who plan to use a
ride-sharing app such as Uber or Lyft that there will be what it called a "geofence"
around the security perimeter, meaning pickups will not be permitted inside
that perimeter. Attendees using those services will have to leave the perimeter
to get to their ride.