D.C. Chamber Offers Guides for Tourists

Posted August 8, 2003 at 1:19pm

They only want to spend a few nights, and they say they’ll sleep on the couch. They want to see the nation’s capital, and they promise they won’t be in your way.

During the summer months, visitors flock to the District of Columbia in record numbers. In recent years, Washington has become the No. 8 tourist destination in the United States, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. And the TIAA has forecasted that 19.3 million people indicate that Washington is their top summer travel destination this year.

For District residents, this can mean frequent restaurant suggestions, area tours and Metro lessons.

For busy residents who can’t serve as tour guide, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce is trying to find a solution. As part of a new promotion, the Visitor’s Information Center in the Old Post Office is giving away free visitors’ packets to families staying with area residents.

Residents are encouraged to pick up a packet for their visiting guests, or visitors can get one themselves.

The “Guest on the Go” packets contain a visitor’s map, a Kodak disposable camera, a Metro one-day fare card and discounts to area attractions packaged in a black fanny pack with an American flag logo.

Since the center began distributing the packets July 1, nearly 500 have been given away, and the office has another 500 to give away until Sept. 1 or until they are gone, said Sue Porter, director of tourism for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Last month, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) sent an e-mail to the offices of other Members of Congress to let them know about the promotion.

In the letter she acknowledges that “often Members of Congress and family members hosting relatives or friends cannot provide personal tours of the city for their guests given their busy work schedules.”

The Chamber does not know specific tourism numbers for this summer, but Porter said based on anecdotal observations the numbers have increased.

“I think it’s pent-up demand,” she said, noting a feeling that security levels have stabilized. “If people are feeling patriotic, which a lot of people are these days, it’s a great place to visit.”

The Chamber hopes to repeat the promotion next year, she said.