The Rise of Protest Tourism

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Since the Women’s March in January 2017, the United States and the world have seen an increase in the peaceful protest, thus providing opportunities for citizens to travel to some of the world’s largest cities to stand up for what they believe in. In response, cities’ tourism boards (particularly in Washington, D.C.) had to prepare resources and infrastructures for an influx of visitors in the wake of what has been labeled “protest tourism.”

Protests have been held in D.C. for centuries, but since the Women’s March, the capital city has played host to an increasing number of these gatherings. At the March for Our Lives in March, the nation’s capital expected approximately 500,000 participants from all over the country and world to march through its streets protesting gun violence in the United States. While the center of the American government typically sees the largest turnout, other cities around the country also host marches on the same day, prompting hotels, restaurants and airlines to brace themselves for a brief surge in business.

Although tourism boards do not host or participate in these political demonstrations, they do advertise a small amount of relevant information on their websites to help visitors navigate the city, especially when facing massive crowds.

Local businesses, however, consider the demographic data of the groups that come to the city for protests and find ways to support the protesters. During the March for Our Lives, where the visitors were mostly high-school students, a few local restaurants offered discounts to patrons who showed student ID cards.

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