Will coronavirus affect cherry blossom season in D.C.?

Coronavirus concerns are impacting events in the District — one of the premier locations for conferences and tourism.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is just around the corner and with three coronavirus cases to the north in Maryland, D.C.’s tourism office “Destination DC” is fielding calls and questions about coronavirus.

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Peak bloom is three weeks away at the Tidal Basin and D.C.’s tourism office says folks could expect to see spectators wearing masks while checking out the cherry blossoms — and that’s not all.

FOX 5 has learned IMF/ World Bank and SAS Institute’s Global Forum both pulled out of conferences in the District over coronavirus concerns.

Canceled in-person meetings:

• IMF/World Bank (4/15-4/19) was expected to draw 3,000 attendees and 6,694 total rooms

• Economic impact - IMF/World Bank: $2.8 million

• SAS Institute’s Global Forum (3/29-4/1) was expected to draw 6,000 attendees with 14,115 total room nights

• Economic impact - SAS Global Forum: $8.6 million

On average, there are reportedly between 20-25 major conferences in the District and peak event season begins in a couple of weeks.

The District’s tourism office says people are very concerned but overall there’s still a strong sentiment about coming to D.C..

Even so, the economic impact of losing conferences over coronavirus concerns is “pretty strong,” says Destination DC President Elliott Ferguson.

Ferguson goes on to say hotels are scrambling to fill rooms and restaurants.

FOX 5 has learned 92 percent of those coming for the National Cherry Blossom Festival are domestic travelers.

The District is also hoping to attract travelers who may have canceled their international travel plans to help fill the gap.

The District is urging everyone to use the same practices they would during flu season.

FOX 5’s Tisha Lewis reports additional hand sanitizing stations are being placed around D.C.’s convention center.