Banking on the Port City

Banking on the Port City

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

City tourism officials said that despite raking in $23.7 million in tax revenue from visitors last year, it’s time for a change.

The Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association unveiled a new branding and advertising campaign last week, shifting from a strategy focused primarily on the city’s historical significance to one that incorporates its modern luxuries as well.

Claire Mouledoux, spokeswoman for the association, said that CEO Patricia Washington conceived the idea for the new campaign after taking the organization’s top job last year.

“She immediately recognized that our branding was leading with sort of a history feel and messaging, which did not match up with her own experience of the city,” Mouledoux said.

When the city rebranded itself five years ago, most of the local arts and restaurant scenes were just getting started, Mouledoux explained.

“Our last rebranding was about five years ago, and that was before the free King Street Trolley, before the three boutique hotels,” she said. “[The] Old Town Boutique District was just in its infancy at the time, and now it’s huge and it’s booming. And a lot of restaurants have really gotten on the map in the D.C. area and nationally [since then].”

Mayor Bill Euille also is enthusiastic about the new campaign. He believes the updated branding better reflects all of Alexandria, not just popular and well-known Old Town.

“I say every day that we have a lot of attractions throughout the entire city,” Euille said. “I want visitors not just to spend a lot of time in Old Town, [but] I [also] want them to explore Arlandria and Del Ray and the West End of the city. And this new discrete branding reinforces that commitment.”

Mouledoux said the organization typically receives a four-to-one return on investment from local government for advertising, measured by a private company that surveys people who say promotions drew them to Alexandria. The city provided $3.1 million to the visitors association for the current fiscal year, of which $1.6 million is going toward the new ad campaign.

But she said that ratio is based on the previous campaign — which focused on print advertising — and the association hopes to increase its economic impact this time by using more web-based and digital ads.

“[The new campaign] is not just messaging and branding, it’s how we position ourselves,” Mouledoux said. “Previously, 80 percent of our ad budget was in print, and [for the new campaign], it will be 60-percent digital. We have to reach people in the way that they’re consuming media.”