DC Set A Hotel Demand Record Last Weekend During Inauguration, Women's March
Across the DC Metro area, hotel demand last weekend outpaced all of the previous inaugurations this century.
Between Thursday and Friday night, hotels in DC, Maryland and Virginia booked a total of 189,547 rooms, according to data from travel research firm STR. This is the most demand the area has seen over an inauguration weekend since STR began tracking daily hotel data in 2000, up 7% from the previous high in 2009.
The hotel surge undoubtedly came from a combination of the inauguration itself and the 500,000-person Women's March the following day, but the data does not differentiate between visitors of each event. Crowd scientists estimate three times more people attended the march than the inauguration.
Another factor in the hotel surge, STR senior vice president of lodging insights Jan Freitag said, could be that Trump supporters may have had to travel farther than those who came for Obama's inauguration.
"The DC metro area is blue, so many people probably came in for Obama's inauguration and just went back out," Freitag said. "They didn’t have to stay overnight."
Hotels in the CBD also experienced record hotel demand for an inauguration. Hotels in the downtown neighborhood booked 57,508 rooms between Thursday and Friday nights, 12% more than 2009's previous top mark.
Despite a recent influx of hotel supply in the District, owners were still able to keep rates high this year. The average room rate of CBD hotels for Friday night was $728, which far outpaced any previous inauguration. This is likely a result of the many new high-end hotels available this year, including the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and the Watergate. The Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown unveiled a $27M renovation for the inauguration and set $1,300 average rates, but was only able to book 85% of its rooms.
Destination DC president Elliott Ferguson said while the crowd on the National Mall for the inauguration was thinner than previous years, the Women’s March the following day made up the difference and then some.
“The Women’s March played a huge role in the occupancy rate being as high as it was,” Ferguson said. “Most hotels saw more momentum after the march was confirmed.”
Crescent Hotels CEO Michael George, whose firm operates more than 16 DC Metro hotels, also pointed to Saturday’s march as a key driver of hotel demand.
“The inauguration weekend was a success specifically due to the amalgamation of the inauguration and the Women’s March,” George said.
While the inauguration influx provides a surge of demand for one weekend every four years, Ferguson said it can have a more lasting impact.
“Any opportunity we get to host new visitors in the city, expose them to Washington, is always a good thing because the perception of Washington as a government town is not necessarily what we promote,” Ferguson said. “Any time you have new kinds of people experiencing the city and having a favorable experience, that will influence them to come back.”
Beyond the inauguration, Ferguson said that all types of political activism, like today’s March for Life, bring people to the District to spend money. He said the talk of increased activism during Donald Trump’s administration, including a major climate march planned for April, would be a positive for the city’s hospitality industry.
Hotels were not the only ones to have a record weekend. Airbnb shared in the demand surge, booking more than 5,000 homes for the weekend, its most ever in DC.