WASHINGTON, D.C. – Beyond the tourism bump that the inauguration will provide this month, Washington is expected to be the nation's most-visited destination by charter buses this year.
That forecast comes from the American Bus Association, which surveys its members every year on where they are booking trips.
Inauguration packages will help boost the expected number of bus visitors beyond the 7 million who came last year, as will the reopening of the Smithsonian American History Museum and new tour packages focused on African American culture and history and the Lincoln bicentennial, said Theresa Belpulsi of Destination D.C.
While corporate travel may be down this year, the affordability of bus travel and lower fuel prices may increase the proportion of visitors – currently about a third – who come to the Washington region by bus, according to tourism officials.
This anticipated growth in the bus tourism sector, as well as the logistical challenges the region will face in getting about 5,000 tour buses in and out of Washington for inaugural events, is prompting some in the industry to hope that long-standing issues finally will be addressed – such as parking, permitting and traffic management. The District has parking capacity for about 1,000 buses.
"The D.C. region loves the people our operators bring in, but we're not finding any solutions to what we do with our buses once they get here," said Peter J. Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association.
Kate Scopetti, president of Mid-Atlantic Tours and Receptive Services, a wholesale tour operator that specializes in the Washington area, said 2008 was their best year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, but tourism companies still take a back seat to those that focus on corporate travel when it comes to getting their operating issues addressed.
"I understand that corporate is more lucrative, tourism-wise, but I think corporate will be on the downslide because of the economy," Scopetti said. "I only hope the powers-that-be will perk up and look at the tour buses and other leisure operators and see that as an important component to consider."
Source: Washington Post