More Tourists, Not Much More Money


Tourist season is here: you can feel it on the sidewalk, on the Mall, around the Tidal Basin, and especially on the left sides of downtown Metro escalators. Washington Post reports that DC tourism is up, but that hasn’t necessarily translated to increased revenue for local retail and hospitality businesses. DC, after all, is Freebie Tourism Central: free monuments, museums, parks, even the zoo. Proximity day-trippers account for a large part of the influx of travelers: people driving in from nearby, not staying at hotels overnight, or opting to crash in local relatives’ guest rooms.

So while they’re here, they’re not always pumping money into the local economy. But here’s what does sell: this guy, whose name has increased traffic to a certain U Street NW restaurant; and these flowers, whose festival tickets and souvenirs are selling like hotcakes where other DC souvenir sales have fallen short.

(Potential revenue idea: photos with lifesize Obama cutout wearing cherry blossom leis. HOP TO IT, WASHINGTON ENTREPRENEURS.)

Roving Asian mendicant, can occasionally be seen wandering the streets of downtown Washington, muttering unintelligible gibberish to passers-by while pushing a “bag lady” shopping cart full of old blankets, American flags, soda cans, and healthy secondhand snacks from organic food shop dumpsters. Used to live in a cardboard box at 16th and K but the rent was too expensive.

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