The internet’s all abuzz with the recent announcement that Disney has invested in some land in the National Harbor project with intentions of building a hotel right outside DC. The truth is that Disney has a long track record of promoting tourism not just to its own parks, but nationwide, and that especially includes our nation’s capital, Washington, DC.
In order to promote United States visitorship abroad, Disney produced and donated a seven-minute, cross-country odyssey that tells the story of American hospitality and friendship, through the faces of this country’s greatest asset – its people. The $2.5M video is currently shown to foreign visitors at 105 American consular and embassy offices worldwide, at several of the nation’s busiest international airports (including Dulles International) and even onboard various airlines on their way to the United States.
As part of its Secure Borders and Open Doors policy, the Department of Homeland Security created a program called ‘Model Ports of Entry,’ a process in which the federal government works with local governments and the working knowledge and creativity of the private sector to provide a ‘transparent and welcoming entry process’ for visitors from abroad. Piloted at two airports (one of them being Dulles International), Disney has been an integral part of providing recommendations for providing a more comforting and secure process for entry into the United States, including participating in the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee.
Disney also works hand-in-hand with the federal government in preserving the American experience in DC. Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) has worked with the Trust for the National Mall to improve visitors’ experiences and a WDI task force is currently working with the U.S. National Park service to review potential improvements to facilities, horticulture and movement of people. Imagineering has also worked with the Library of Congress to develop creative concepts for an update to the facility in order to provide a better experience for its visitors.
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo led the creation of a new national strategy to enhance U.S. competitiveness in the worldwide travel and tourism market. Rasulo served as chairman of the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) from 2003-2007, advising the Executive Branch on how best to increase the number of international visitors to the U.S. and ensure that our country’s share of the worldwide tourism market continues to grow. Most recently, Rasulo testified before congress in favor of a national Travel Promotion Act as reported here.
Disney also has a longstanding relationship directly with the DC community. The Disney Hospital Care Package Program provides sick children with fun packages of Disney items and includes participating area hospitals such as Georgetown University Medical Center, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Children’s National Medical Center. Georgetown University Medical Center and the Children’s National Medical Center also beneft from the Disney Fun Flix Program, which provides first-run Disney films to over fifty hospitals nationwide. Disney is also donating Disney-themed panels and blinds to the transplant facilities at Georgetown University and of course numerous Disney characters (and even Miley Cyrus) have visited children in local hospitals to offer encouragement.
In 2005, Disney donated the Walt Disney-Tishman African Art collection to the Simithsonian Institution which went to the National Museum of African Art. Other area beneficiaries of Disney include the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall (under construction), the Smithsonian Latino Center, the Newseum, the National Park Foundation’s African American Experience Fund and Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program launched at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Disney also maintains relationships that have lasted more than 20 years with both the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
And of course, there’s the ‘Spirit of America’ tour offered by Adventures By Disney — an immersive experience that celebrates American history through unique activities and rich storytelling. Adventurers bike-ride around the National Mall on privately guided excursions to view the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and other historic DC sites. Guests also visit area sites such as the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Arlington National Ceremony and have lunch with ‘Martha Washington’ at Mount Vernon.