Tourist Bloom


With Soaring Euro, D.C. Hotels Entice Travelers With Spring Deals, Attractions

You know spring has arrived in Washington when the city’s 3,000 cherry blossoms bloom along the Tidal Basin and tourists converge on the nation’s capital. Tourism typically kicks into high gear between late March and mid-April, luring travelers to view the city’s iconic landmarks and cash in on spring hotel deals.

This year, hospitality officials are particularly eyeing the European market, given the soaring euro and pound against the declining dollar (which is at a record low not only against the euro, but recently dipped below the Japanese yen as well). That translates into incredible bargains for visitors crossing over to this side of the pond—a fact that’s been on the radar of the region’s hoteliers and retailers for months.

“The European market has always been important to us,” said Sarah Crocker, spokeswoman for Kimpton Hotels’ Washington properties, which include the Hotel Monaco in Penn Quarter, Hotel George, Topaz and other boutique properties scattered throughout the city and Northern Virginia. “It’s a great market, and any way that we could try to strengthen it would be very exciting for us.”

In fact, the euro is so strong, that many New York retailers are accepting it as a form of payment. Although D.C. hasn’t followed suit yet, in recent months, area hotel officials, tour operators and retailers have met with the Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corp. (WCTC) to strategize on special packages and shopping deals to appeal to European visitors.

Although talks are still in the preliminary stages, WCTC and other tourism officials from Washington have long maintained representatives in Europe who promote D.C., Maryland and Virginia as a vacation destination. These travel liaisons work on the ground in the United Kingdom—the number-one feeder market of international tourists to the region—as well as parts of Europe, including Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Despite new U.S. Department of Commerce data pointing to 2 million fewer overseas visitors to the United States in 2007 than in 2001—and international complaints about the cumbersome visa and security process to enter the United States since 9/11—Washington still hosts a steady stream of 15 million visitors every year. Of that amount, about 8 percent, or more than 1 million, are visitors from abroad, according to WCTC Communications Director Rebecca Pawlowski.

Although it might not seem like a huge number when compared to domestic visitors who make up the other 92 percent, that 8 percent is responsible for 27 percent of total visitor spending. How much are we talking? In 2006 (the most recent year for visitor spending figures), it turned out to be class=”import-text”>2008April.Euro D.C Hotels.txt.3 billion in direct spending at the area’s restaurants, hotels, attractions, entertainment and shopping venues.

Capitalizing on the Euro “The weak dollar is good for the travelers, but it makes it more challenging for the destinations because everything costs more,” Pawlowski said, referring to marketing, contractors’ fees and other expenses that domestic retailers incur.

“We’ve never had the budget for concerted advertising efforts, so we’re relying more on the relationships we’ve built with travel agents and tour operators,” Pawlowski added. “A great example is a program we’ve developed with Lufthansa City Center, which is the largest and most prestigious travel agency in Germany.”

Last year, Capital Region USA—which encompasses D.C., Maryland and Virginia—partnered with Lufthansa City Center to serve as the travel agency’s featured destination, with in-store displays, customer mailings, and Web and magazine features all spotlighting attractions in the nation’s capital. The result was impressive.

“We saw a 38 percent increase in flight bookings,” Pawlowski said. “The partnership continues this year and will emphasize D.C.’s boutique hotels. We’ve also gotten a lot of good press for D.C. as a nice alternative to New York for long weekend shopping breaks, and we’ll be looking for more of that in the future.”

But for now, there are plenty of deals for both European and non-European visitors? In fact, D.C. boasts an array of spring specials for travelers of all types. Here’s a sampling:

Cherries Galore The widely anticipated National Cherry Blossom Festival features special spring hospitality packages, via WCTC, starting at 9 a night (peak bloom dates are between March 27 and April 3).

At the St. Gregory Luxury Hotel and Suites, book a weekend celebration package during the festival and receive deluxe accommodations, breakfast for two, a Sunday champagne jazz brunch for two at the M Street Bar & Grill, complimentary parking and a special cherry blossom cocktail, starting at 9 a night.

Or take part in the Fairmont Washington’s cherry blossom package, which includes overnight accommodations for two, complimentary valet parking and a box of beautiful cherry blossom note cards, starting at 9 a night.

At the River Inn, the “Cherry Bloomin” package, also starting at 9 per night (based on a two-night weekend stay), offers corporate suite accommodations, complimentary cherry blossom cocktail, complimentary breakfast for two at Dish restaurant, a pair of Metro passes, an informational packet on the Cherry Blossom Festival, VIP amenities upon arrival, including chocolate-covered cherries, and a gift card to CVS to develop your photo memories of the blossoms.

The Park Hyatt Washington is no stranger to catering to guests from around the world. Some of the hotel’s largest international feeder countries are Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Italy. The hotel’s spring blossom package offers an upgrade to a Park Deluxe room (the largest deluxe room in D.C.), a pot of cherry blossom green tea from the hotel’s rare and vintage Pu-erh tea collection, valet parking or a full American breakfast for two. Rooms start at 9 a night and the package runs on the weekends through April 27.

The historic Willard InterContinental Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue is home to its own mini Cherry Blossom Festival of sorts as it annually decks out its ornate lobby and Peacock Alley with a stunning floral display of the pretty blossoms, including historic renderings of the first Japanese delegation to America.

In addition, guests can purchase the “Very Cherry Willard” package starting at 9 per night, or for a smaller, more affordable sampling of flower power, head over to the Round Robin Bar for its signature blossom cocktails such as the “Cherry Blossom Fizz” made of dark rum, triple Sec and Godiva chocolate, priced at .

For a non-alcoholic option, try the cherry-infused teas offered seven days a week in the hotel’s Peacock Alley.Not enough cherry-themed rejuvenation? Head over to the I Spa at the Willard for a cherry blossom massage, designed to melt away stress, or the green tea mint scrub, which exfoliates and purges toxins to give your skin a healthy glow before you head out to see the cherry blossoms in all their glory.

For a complete list of hotel participants in the Cherry Blossom Festival, visit For a list of the more than 200 festival-related events, visit

Relaxation Techniques If you’re looking to unwind after visiting Washington’s spring sites, rejuvenation can be found at the Hotel Monaco Washington, DC, which offers a self-explanatory “Ahhh…That Feels Good” package that includes his-and-her 25-minute body massages, a bath drawn with essential oils, aromatherapy candles and herbal tea. The hotel also hosts a complimentary wine reception every night. The package starts from 9 for a deluxe room.

The Hotel George captures the Washingtonian spirit for out-of-town visitors with its “First Ladies of Luxury” package, which invites female travelers to a little pampering, with a little political twist. The hotel will provide an in-room facial spa treatment, a soothing bubble bath with reading selections from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s best-loved poems, as well as a 50-minute signature massage.Hollywood in D.C.

In conjunction with the film release of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” starring Nicolas Cage, WCTC has created a promotional campaign to celebrate the city’s starring role in the action-adventure movie. “Trails to Treasure” is a self-guided tour developed by WCTC that highlights the historical D.C. sites featured in the film, allowing visitors to discover some of the city’s own “secrets.”

The campaign can be found on an extensive Web site,, where visitors can also try to solve a series of clues and codes for a chance to win a trip for two to the nation’s capital. In addition, area hotels have created special “National Treasure”-themed packages in conjunction with the film. Participating hotels include the Melrose, Madison, Henley Park, Churchill, L’Enfant Plaza and Hay-Adams, among others, with rates starting at 9 a night.

Finally, if you’re looking to check out of Washington in search of a little European flavor, visit the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania close to the Maryland border, about two and a half hours from the city. Situated on 3,000 acres, the resort blends American rustic charm with European elegance, as seen in its AAA Five Diamond restaurant Lautrec (inspired by French artistic icon Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) located inside the elaborate Chateau LaFayette, as well as the abundance of artwork scattered throughout the property, part of a million collection that reflects both American and European masters.

But there’s more here to do than just admire artwork or indulge in fine dining. Foreigners can get a taste of classic American sportsmanship with activities such as fly-fishing, 36 holes of golf on two championship courses, and an outdoor sporting facility on 140 acres complete with a 30-station shooting academy. And if you’re just out to relax, Nemacolin is home to the internationally acclaimed Woodlands Spa.

About the Author

Christine Cub