Study: National Mall visitors a nearly $800m payday for D.C.

Local,DC,Courtney Zott

The annual throngs of tourists that descend upon the National Mall throughout the year are bringing with them a massive chunk of change.

According to the latest data from George Mason University, more than 24 million Mall visitors in 2010 spent upwards of $792 million throught the District. The cash also helped add 9,433 jobs in the city that year.

Much of the revenue streams in during the spring season, said Min Park, an assistant professor with the parks, recreation and tourism department at GMU. Park announced her department's findings Thursday at a National Cherry Blossom Festival news conference.

"Especially this year because of the length [of the festival], we expect more people to come out," Park said.

This year's five-week long centennial celebration, an extension of the typical two weeks, is expected to pull in a record sum of cash. Bookings are up 24 percent from last year at the 55 hotels participating in the festival's special lodging packages, according to Destination DC.

"From here forth let it be known that D.C. owns spring," said Gregory McCarthy, the chairman of the District's marketing firm, in regard to the travel and tourism industry. According to McCarthy, tourism and travel is the second leading industry in the nation's capital, bringing in about $622 million annually in local tax revenue.

With such promising prospects, could a longer festival become the norm?

"We're going to evaluate it and see if it's even a sustainable option," said festival president Diana Mayhue.

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