My View: Alexandria celebrates Preservation Month and National Travel and Tourism Week

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King Street is one of the most popular destinations for tourists heading to Alexandria.
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By Lance Mallamo and Patricia Washington

This week, the nation’s travel industry is celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week. Spending by travelers in the United States totals more than $990 billion annually and supports 15.3 million American jobs. On Monday Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Virginia’s tourism revenue reached $24 billion in 2016, a 3.3 percent increase over 2015, outpacing the national growth rate.

May is also Preservation Month. As one of the first nationally-designated historic districts, Old Town highlights the benefits of investing in preservation and heritage tourism.

Millions of travelers come to Alexandria each year, drawn by our beautifully preserved architecture, cobblestone streets, intimate museums and authentic sense of place. Add to that our accessibility to Washington D.C., a contemporary vibrancy and hometown feel from locally-owned shops and restaurants and it’s easy to see why so many visitors select Alexandria as a vacation destination. These components undergird Alexandria’s tourism industry, an industry that generated a record $771 million in visitor spending and $25.5 million in city tax revenue last year in addition to supporting 6,340 jobs. We need a critical mass of economic activity to support historic preservation, and we need a commitment to preservation to maintain our historic character that both residents and visitors value.

The latest example of the City of Alexandria’s commitment to preservation is the recent acquisition of the historic Murray-Dick-Fawcett House in Old Town. The property, located at 517 Prince St., is one of the earliest homes in the city and possibly the least-altered 18th century home in Northern Virginia. The 0.3-acre lot, which contains the 245-year-old timber frame and brick dwelling, and a small garden, was one of the few buildings in existence in the area during the American Revolution.

The property will be used in perpetuity as a historic pocket park and garden, creating new open space in Old Town and preserving this nationally significant architectural and cultural resource for residents and visitors. In celebration of Preservation Month, the house will be open to the public for the first time on May 13 from 8:30 a.m. to noon and again on May 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Alexandria’s rich authentic American history, which dates back to the city’s days as George Washington’s hometown, is one of our most cherished assets. The connection between historic preservation and travel and tourism cannot be overstated. In fact, research conducted by Destination Analysts in 2014 showed that historic significance and well-preserved 18th and 19th century architecture were among the top reasons visitors decided to travel to Alexandria.

For decades Visit Alexandria and the Office of Historic Alexandria have worked together as close partners to create unique visitor experiences and market Alexandria as a national and international travel destination. We are are committed to working together to preserve our rich history and reap the benefits of a thriving travel and tourism industry.

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Lance Mallamo is the director of the Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA), the department of the City of Alexandria that is responsible for historic preservation. Patricia Washington is President & CEO of Visit Alexandria, the nonprofit tourism marketing organization for Alexandria.

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