At least one D.C. tourism company has shifted its focus from solely hailing the city’s architecture and government institutions to advertising the life and local interests of the president himself.
In attempts to ride the coattails of President Obama’s popularity and the hype surrounding his inauguration, Destination D.C., the District’s official tourism corporation has created “Obama’s Backyard” – a three-day online itinerary that instructs visitors how to follow in the footsteps of President Obama and his family.
The itinerary includes a wide range of places where Obama and his family have dined, like U Street’s Ben’s Chili Bowl and Equinox, the restaurant where the president and First Lady Michelle Obama visited for her birthday. People who walk the “Obama walk” will see some of the first family’s favorite restaurants, theaters, museums, lounges and shops that they have visited since their January arrival in the District.
The company does not run actual tours, but instead created the itinerary as suggested schedule. It is designed to show that the city is not just where the President works, but also where he eats, sleeps and lives, said Rebecca Pawlowski, a spokeswoman for Destination D.C.
“The self-guided tour is to encourage visitors and continue the excitement surrounding Obama’s election and inauguration,” she said.
Though it is hard to estimate how many people have taken the Obama tour since its launch in March, Pawlowski said it has increased traffic to the organization’s Web site and has helped jumpstart the spring tourism market.
There has been no similar walking tour for any past president, which Pawlowski attributes to Obama’s unique appeal.
“There is incredible excitement surrounding Obama and his election,” Pawlowski said.
Though the itinerary has only been featured for about a month, businesses on the list say they have seen an increase in tourism based on interest in the Obama family. After Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty sat down to lunch at Georgia Brown’s restaurant, the restaurant has seen a rise in reservations.
“Guests frequently ask what Mrs. Obama had ordered and where she sat,” said Lauren Kosiba, a server at the restaurant.
Increased interest in Obama-related locations, however, is not limited to any one spot, Pawlowski said. The list includes plethora of restaurants, lounges and shops – all of which have noticed an increase in sales, she added.
“Generally the businesses that have hosted the first family, reflecting in our promotion of them, have been very happy with the advertisement and are reaping the benefits,” Pawlowski said. “We hope that this will bring new people to explore the great assets D.C. has to offer.”