Recent travel studies and business reports reveal a flourishing economy in Washington D.C., nearly outpacing all 50 states. It is growing steadily despite the recession and has experienced a spike in employment, big business development, and domestic and international travel.
About 1,000 people move to the area per month, says Teresa Belpulsi, vice president of tourism for Destination D.C., the capital’s official marketing organization. The metropolis’ multifaceted growth makes it an ideal market for luxury ground transportation operators to build business.
Serving the Business Sector
Regarding corporate clientele, the district’s pool is only getting larger. According to the 2011-2012 Regional Report put out by Greater Washington Initiative, D.C. is home to 18 Fortune 500 company headquarters, which represent more than half a trillion dollars in combined annual revenues. As well, five major corporate headquarters relocated to the Greater Washington area within the past two years.
17.9 million people visited the nation's capital in 2011.
“We’re home to over 190 different embassies and there’s constantly business travel to lobby on the Hill,” Belpulsi says. “In other words, there’s always a VIP event in the city. Put all of that together in addition to our high-end hotels and restaurants and there’s absolutely a greater need for luxury transportation here.”
The Regional Report also ranked D.C. second among U.S. metropolitan areas for job growth from 2000 to 2009, at the height of the economic downturn. Since 2000, the district gained more than 285,000 jobs. In that time span, the regional GRP grew 25%, making it number one in economic strength for U.S. metro areas.
Altogether, more than $18 billion has been spent on construction and new development in recent years. A high volume of international business developers are investing in D.C. projects, Belpulsi says. To accommodate, airlines are adding new flights.
In March of 2013, Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, will be flying into Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). This addition will mark the fourth Middle Eastern carrier D.C. has added in the past few years. By 2013, IAD will have more service to the Middle East than JFK International Airport in New York.
“Especially with business incentive travel, if someone has an appointment and needs to get from point A to point B with limited lag time, they can’t hail a cab — it’s too complicated to make it on time,” Belpulsi says. “Same can go for leisure travel, so that’s where luxury transportation becomes essential.”
Visitors and the Tourism Market
With tourism and the federal government as its economic anchors, D.C. is reaching new levels of growth in the amount of visitors it receives per year. In 2011, Washington D.C. welcomed a total of 17.9 million visitors, surpassing its previous record set in 2000.
Due to this volume, statisticians predict the numbers will continue to increase through at least 2015, according to Destination D.C.’s 2011 Visitor Statistics. Expectedly, hotel demand and visitor spending both increased significantly this year.
“There are different corridors around the city all under development with new restaurants, hotels, city centers, and retail boutiques…that’s just what’s happening,” Belpulsi says.
Passage to and from airports is one of the most common requests luxury transportation operators receive in D.C., home to three major airports: Dulles, Reagan National, and Baltimore-Washington International. More than 570 international non-stop flights from more than 50 world destinations arrive in D.C. weekly. From September 2011 to August 2012, IAD had 23,015,515 total passengers. The airport will continue expanding as a result of a capital construction program for future IAD growth.
Washington’s abundance of museums, monuments, and famous markets and shopping centers make it a prominent place for the charter and tour industry as well.
“For several years, D.C. has ranked in the top three U.S. destinations for group and tour travel, and that continues to grow every single year,” Belpulsi says. “We’re always adding new products for these touring companies to create a product and experience around.”
A handful of vacationers to the region seek out some form of personalized or customizable tour, especially those whose native language is not English, Belpulsi says. And travelers who have their own translator are often just looking for a chauffeur.
“On the luxury side, you see visitors who want a chartered bus tour while others just need a more customized experience or want to travel at their own pace,” Belpulsi says. “You get both.”
Networking the Biggest Markets
In the business breeding ground that is Washington D.C., networking is key. The hotel market in D.C. is one of the most thriving sectors for luxury transportation companies to operate within, Belpulsi says. Big hotel brands are a major source of revenue and prestige, attracting vacationers and business travelers alike.
“I’ve seen that people starting a transportation business in D.C. network with concierges at different hotels,” Belpulsi says. “They are the eyes and ears of the people coming in and would know who’d be most in need of transportation.”
Another judicious tactic is building relationships with local travel agencies. Since the competition in D.C. is so elevated, it doesn’t hurt to have outside organizations making recommendations to visitors.
“A lot of people here on vacation tend to use one company to make all of the arrangements for their trip,” Belpulsi says. “People who spend the money on private transfer do it because there’s a certain purpose, reason and sophistication to it…and that won’t go away.”
D.C. Market By The Numbers:
- 17.9 million people visited in 2011
- 18 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in D.C.
- More than 285,000 jobs gained from 2000-2009
- 570 International non-stop flights arrive weekly
- 23,015,515 total passengers who flew through Dulles International Airport from Sept. 2011 to Aug. 2012
- $18 billion spent on construction and development in recent years