Businesses Gear Up for the Inaugural Crush

Now that Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States, Washington, D.C. businesses are gearing up for the 56th presidential inauguration ceremonies culminating with his swearing in on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

With its theme, “A New Birth of Freedom,” which commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday and celebrate the words from his Gettysburg Address, the event is receiving unprecedented amount of interest from visitors near and far who want to be part of the celebrations for the nation’s first African-American president.

The official planning will be done by the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) with events that include the parade, sponsored by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee; several inaugural balls, the Swearing-In Ceremony and Inaugural Address, and the Inaugural Luncheon.

Destination DC, the former Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp., is the official source of information for visitors traveling to the District for the Inaugural Day.

“We have received a tremendous amount of interest early in the year. And particularly different from 2004, we have had a greater international interest in Inauguration 2009,” said Rebecca Pawlowski, communications director for Destination DC.

Pawlowski said Destination DC is working to gather information from agencies involved in Inauguration Day after they have been selected by the inauguration planning committee. “Traditionally, the Washington D.C. Convention Center and the larger ballrooms in the District, like the Marriott Wardman Park and Capitol Hilton ballrooms, are utilized by the committee for official events,” Pawlowski said.

Hotels in the area are expecting a significant increase in business in January. “Normally, the hotel occupancy rate in the District increases 7 percent during presidential election years,” she said.

The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, a few miles south of the district in Prince George’s County, Md, is expecting to meet full capacity the week of the inauguration. “As of right now, we are hosting an unofficial ball and are offering a Presidential Inauguration Package during the week,” said Amie Gorrell, director of communications “We haven’t fully booked all our rooms just yet, but we intend to before the major event.”

Destination DC recently announced that many hotels in the area are also offering special hotel packages during inauguration week, including the Ritz-Carltons in Washington and Georgetown, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and local Kimpton Hotels.

Mark Indre, a representative for the Marriott, said all of the Washington hotels already are sold out beginning several nights before Inauguration Day. “Two days prior to Election Day, we sold out of rooms in Washington, D.C., and are now seeing hotels out to Baltimore and Richmond booking up for inauguration,” he said.

Even local jewelers are getting in on the action. At the Tiny Jewel Box of Washington, D.C., which traditionally designs a line of jewelry specifically for the inauguration, the gems are already available for sale on its Web site and in store.

Ann Hand, the renowned Georgetown jeweler, who has designed pins for presidential candidates since 1996 said, “The pins have received a lot more interest this year since more people are involved and want to wear their vote.” In spirit of the season, Hand’s company recently hosted a mock election based on the sales of her pins. And not surprisingly, Obama pins outsold McCain pins. “We are excited about this election season and in the process of completing our Inauguration 2009 pins set to release in a few days,” Hand said.