Tourism officials bank on Alexandria’s allure

Tourism officials bank on Alexandria’s allure

By Derrick Perkins [Image/Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association]

The city’s “Extraordinary Alexandria” tourism campaign has been exactly that, concluded market research experts brought in to review the one-year-old initiative.

For every dollar allocated toward advertising, the city saw visitors spend about $171 at local shops and restaurants, according to a study undertaken by San Francisco-based market research firm Destination Analysts. In turn, each dollar spent on advertising generated about $6 in tax revenue, up from $4 in 2010.

Officials with the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association released the findings at the Old Town Hilton on Monday, earning the applause of a crowd of lawmakers, community leaders and business owners. The assembled dignitaries included Bill Butcher of Port City Brewing Co., John Long of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Val Hawkins of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, several city councilors and Mayor Bill Euille.

Though overall visitor spending fell slightly in 2013 — from $739 million the year prior to $738 million — tourists raised about $24 million in taxes last year, experts said. They estimate that tax revenue generated by visitor spending knocked about $300 off residents’ bills.

Tourism also supports about 6,000 jobs in the city, officials said.

Euille and his colleagues gave the visitors association a $35,000 boost earlier this year, bumping the city’s annual allocation to the group to $3,197,353 in fiscal 2015, according to budget documents.

“I am a huge believer in what branding and tourism can do for our city,” Euille said. “We have so much going for us. … We’re making some wonderful strides but we have a lot more to do.”

Officials credited the new “Extraordinary Alexandria” campaign — as well as a multipronged approach to advertising and marketing — with keeping the Port City’s travel industry booming in an otherwise adverse period. Last year’s lengthy government shutdown and bitter winter deterred traveling, experts said.

“This has been a year of challenges,” said Patricia Washington, CEO of the travel association. “But here in Alexandria — despite all of those challenges — we’ve held our own.”

The “Extraordinary Alexandria” campaign focused on the city’s array of boutiques, celebrated culinary scene and commitment to the arts while showcasing its history and architecture. The second year will play up Alexandria’s proximity to Washington while highlighting its differences with the District, officials said.

The tourism association also plans to overhaul its website, making it more mobile-friendly, and undertake a rebranding effort. Soon the organization will be known simply as Visit Alexandria.

And officials will continue moving more toward digital advertising while focusing more on Millenials and Gen Xers as well as the affluent older adults that have long been targeted by the local travel industry.