DC: Developing for Conferences

DC: Developing for Conferences

CMW reports from the US capital, which is turning up the gas with a wide range of venue improvements.


Washington, DC is the number three city in the US for international association meetings, according to the 2018 ICCA Statistics Report.

As well as being the centre of political decision-making and lobbying, Washington offers many free-to-enter museums, historic neighbourhoods and revered universities and colleges.

Washington, DC is a top city for social entrepreneurs, and claims to be the most educated city in the US. These factors and more have helped establish the nation’s capital as a leader in key industries such as tech, biotech/pharma, education and medical.

The venue inventory is growing and evolving in some exciting directions, with the conventions jewel in the crown, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center’s Phase II development opening in spring 2019. There is also a $250m, 360-room Herzog & de Meuron-designed Conrad Hotel.

When the World Gas Conference came to the Walter E. Washington CC in 2018 it took up 40,000sqm of exhibition space and attracted 12,000 attendees, and organisers reckoned the event impacted the local economy to the tune of $11.4m.

“We welcome more international association business and hope new non-stop air service, unique hotel inventory and DC’s thriving restaurant scene help make it easy to choose Washington, DC for your meeting,” says Elliott L. Ferguson II, President and CEO of Destination DC. “Business travellers can access lawmakers relevant to their cause, find a delegate base that helps grow their bottom line and meet in incredible new venues, such as the International Spy Museum, which boasts a rooftop terrace with views of the city.”

Jay Copan, Executive Director, 27th WGC Special Advisor to the President, International Gas Union, has some big praise for DC as a convention destination: “There are daily, non-stop flights into Dulles International Airport from all over the world. From the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and hotels where most people are staying, you can walk to every museum and every major monument in the city and our delegates benefitted from that.”

Copan adds: “Our goal for this year’s World Gas Conference was to put on a world-class event in a world-class city and we exceeded that goal.”

The convention centre also boasts the largest digital signage network in the US and this year will continue developing a series of renovations with a streetscape plan, grand lobby refresh and mamava pods for nursing mothers.

The National Conference Center, located in Leesburg, Virginia, is Green Seal™ GS-33 Silver and Virginia Green™ certified and hosts many eco-friendly events. A member of the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), the centre boasts 23,225sqm of meeting space and 250 meeting rooms. It also has the largest ballroom in Northern Virginia, accommodating up to 1,800 guests.

In terms of new venue developments, the highly anticipated REACH expansion at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened on 7 September 2019 (pictured top).

A $175m expansion project, REACH, offers 6,689sqm of performance and events space, spacious gardens and terrace seating for up to 1,600 people.

The Hilton Washington DC National Mall located at L’Enfant Plaza between The Wharf and the National Mall, re-opened in April 2019 after renovation with 367 rooms, 2,136sqm of meeting and event space and a Grand Ballroom accommodating 600 guests.

The International Spy Museum opened in DC in May 2019 and has new indoor and outdoor event space, while the National Air and Space Museum is re-opening in phases 2022-2025.

Visitors can still enjoy The Anthem at The Wharf, a 14,000sqm music venue that also serves as a convention facility, with flexible capacity up to 6,000.

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail