City Tourism, Visitor Spending on the Rise

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City Tourism, Visitor Spending on the Rise
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Everyone knows the economy is going through a tough patch and tourism in general is down everywhere, but not in historical Alexandria.  The Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association held their annual meeting last week with a bulk of good news to celebrate: visitor spending is up in Alexandria by almost 4 percent over 2006, the increase in tourism has inspired the Alexandria Visitors Center to stay open until 8 p.m., the popular vacation website, Travelocity, informed the city that Alexandria is one of the top 20 most visited sites out of 160 destination sites on their Web site, and the King Street Trolley is a huge success with over 300,000 riders in the first five months. The bottom line: the future is bright for visitors and residents alike because those 3.4 million visitors spent over $584 million (almost $20 million in tax revenue) in the city in the past year.

The meeting and reception, hosted by the ACVA at the Old Town Crowne Plaza Sept. 25, welcomed more than 100 of Alexandrias business owners, restaurant owners and historical site directors as well as Mayor Bill Euille, Vice Mayor Del Pepper, and Councilmen Ludgwig Gaines and Justin Wilson. In addition, City Manager Jim Hartman and Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks were there to lend their support to the ACVA.

In addition to celebrating the news about tourism in the city, awards were given to Jim Singerling, the president of the Club Managers Association, and Pat Troy, owner of Irelands Own, for their years of dedicated service on the ACVA Board of Directors.  

The honors continued as Jinks kept the crowd in suspense while he described all the contributions to tourism that the winner of the David G. Speck Tourism Partner of the Year award has made to the city.  That winner was Charlotte Hall, vice president of the Potomac Riverboat Company.  Halls award was recognition for her work over the past 11 years as a strong advocate for tourism, for her efforts to found the Old Town Business Association, for getting the water taxi to and from National Harbor up and running, and for coming up with the idea to have a free trolley run up and down King Street. Hall said, I am honored to win the award, but it truly isnt about me. The water taxi and the free King Street trolley are the result of what I think was unprecedented partnering between the city, the business owners and residents. We had a common goal and a hard deadline with National Harbor opening, and we all worked together to make it happen.

John Varghese, Chairman of the ACVA Board, got the meeting rolling and was the first of several speakers.  He attributed the successful year for the ACVA to collaboration among city leaders, the business community and residents of Alexandria.  He was followed by Gaines, who gave an overview of the city and ACVAs preparations for the opening of National Harbor. Mayor Euille spoke next and thanked everyone, especially Stephanie Brown, President and CEO of the ACVA, for her hard work. Brown then took the podium and gave a fascinating presentation about the state of tourism in Alexandria.

Tourism continues to be a significant contributor to Alexandrias economic base, explained the effervescent Brown. Her marketing plan for 2009 is to increase the volume of day-trippers to our local area and get them to stay longer by partaking of good food in the fine restaurants of Alexandria as well as retail therapy in and around the area. The rise in the prices of gas and air travel will make tourism more volatile. However, Brown hopes to even out the volatility and increase the number of Alexandria visitors by focusing on the ACVAs guiding principles: brand development and economic development.

The job of ending the meeting on a high note fell to Adam Sachs, Founder and Managing Director of Tourism Economy. He took the podium when Brown stepped down and reinforced her message that, while tourism is on the decline nationwide, it is not in Alexandria. Furthermore, Sachs reaffirmed Browns strategy to expand the number of tourists visiting Alexandria throughout the year.

Attendees in all sectors of Alexandrias tourist industry could not help but leave the meeting with the feeling that the city is well positioned to welcome visitors and weather the potentially rough economic times ahead.

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