WASHINGTON — As the tourism industry continues to rebound from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, officials in the nation’s capital are using cash incentives to both entice travelers and help their local businesses.
But the promotion, dubbed the “Shop. Eat. Stay. Play. Giveaway” by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington that came up with the idea, is only open to residents of the District of Columbia, and people from neighboring Maryland and Virginia.
“The giveaway encourages our regional residents to take advantage of the many top-notch venues, restaurants, shopping and more that DC has to offer as the city is reopening and focused on recovery efforts,” the association said in a statement to Patch.
“We are aware of a national campaign for travel/tourism to DC, however, it is not part of the promotion,” the statement concluded, not directly stating why the contest was opened only to regional residents.
The Washington, DC tourism giveaway offers 51 prizes, all cash value that can go toward local restaurants and other businesses, that range from $500 to $25,000.
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said the tourism and hospitality industries are vital to the local economy “not only because they create jobs and support local businesses, but also because they help us tell the story of local D.C.”
“It’s been a difficult year, but now we look forward to a strong recovery and getting back to the people, places and activities we love,” the mayor added.
Forty-six winners will be chosen at random to be given anywhere between $500 and $10,000 to shop and eat at local stores and restaurants, according to the restaurant association. There will be three tiers of prizes for people who enter this category, with three awarded $10,000.
In a separate contest, five “grand prize” winners will get $25,000 to host an event in the city. Interested residents living in and near The Beltway can enter the raffle here, with the winners expected to be announced in five rounds on June 1, 7, 14, 21 and 28.
D.C. isn’t the first to adopt a raffle program to help businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
S&T Provisions, a neighborhood pizza setup shop on the South Side of Chicago, began a trend adopted in other parts of Chicagoland last year in which consumers would buy into a raffle, with the money raised shared among participating businesses that would then offer gift cards as the prizes.
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S&T’s raffle was open to anyone anywhere, as more than a year later D.C. officials have closed their similar push for tourism to people who already live in, and experience, the area regularly.