Obama slept here: "Obamatourism" sweeps the nation


I have just returned from a visit to Washington, DC, where everyone is talking about next month's inauguration. Some estimates place attendance at up to four million people. Even half that amount would be spectacular. (To put it in perspective, Bush's second inaugural attracted only 300,000 people, yet it still cost $17 million to mount.)

Many DC residents are devising ways to rent their extra rooms or even to clear out entirely for the events and rent their entire homes. A typical example is this two-bedroom condo near the African-American hotspot of U Street, going for $1,500. (That's a night, not for the week.) Event organizers are also scrambling to accommodate all those people--the port-a-potty people are flush with anticipation, with every unit in the Mid-Atlantic region on its way to the Mall--and there won't be an empty hotel room for a 250-mile radius, something that worries the Red Cross, which likes to have a few spaces for emergencies.

Only a particularly hardy traveler will brave a trip to a city stuffed with four million outsiders. But Obama's popularity is so high that Washington is only one of the places attracting tourism based on the man. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau has put together travel suggestions based on the president-elect's favorites, including chef Rick Bayless' Mexican restaurant Topolobampo and the basketball courts where Obama likes to shoot hoops with his brother-in-law, who is the head basketball coach at Oregon State University. The CVB has mapped out a three-day visit based on Obama's Chicago favorites.