By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Each year, Alexandria’s official tourism organization, Visit Alexandria, answers a loaded question in our constantly evolving city: What’s new?
The new decade brings with it a lot of new initiatives and businesses in the city, from an influx of Asian restaurants to expanded black history programming. Visit Alexandria representatives detailed several of these new happenings at its 2020 What’s New meeting at the Carlyle Club on Jan. 24.
For the first time in recent years, Visit Alexandria representatives also presented tourism data based on primary research on Alexandria, rather than national trends. Research firm Destination Analysts collected the data about Alexandria from about 3,000 people from various locations along the East Coast, some of whom have visited Alexandria and some of whom have not.
Additionally, a demographic profile of survey respondents who have visited Alexandria within the past three years found 72.1 percent of visitors were married, 82.3 percent were college educated, 59.5 percent were employed and 79.8 were Caucasian. The average age was 52.8, the average household income was $120,437 and there was an even split between males and females.
History continues to be the city’s pièce de résistance, as 56.2 respondents listed it as the first thing that came to mind when they thought of Alexandria. History more than doubled the second highest response, ambiance and atmosphere, which 24.3 percent of respondents prioritized.
Another standout in the data was attraction to the waterfront. In a portion of the survey where respondents were shown photos of scenes around Alexandria – which included shops along King Street, cobblestone roads and historic sites like Mount Vernon – the photos that performed the best were those with water.
“Our historic character is really important but showing a place that’s on the water is very inspirational to people as a place that they want to visit,” Vito Fiore, director of marketing and research for Visit Alexandria, said. “… Being a waterfront destination is something that a lot of places do not have. I think that that makes it all the more important that our waterfront has new offerings.”
One of those new waterfront offerings is the new public art installation that will replace “Mirror Mirror” in March. “Wrought, Knit, Labor, Legacies” by Olalekan Jeyifous will feature a series of sculptures and ground murals that will frame the city’s African American history. The installation will be located at Waterfront Park through November as part of the Office of the Arts’ “Site/See: New Views in Old Town” series.
An increase in black history programming and experiences will be a recurring theme in 2020, Claire Mouledoux, vice president of communications for Visit Alexandria, said.
In addition to the new public art installation, the Alexandria Black History Museum is expanding its African American interpretations this year, the Office of Historic Alexandria is helping to develop an African American heritage waterfront trail, Manumission Tour Company is debuting a new tour this spring and the city is slated to purchase Freedom House, the historic site of a former slave trading firm.
On the business front, a slew of new establishments have planned opening dates in 2020. This spring, the city plans to welcome Mount Purrnon Cat Café on South Alfred Street, Get Air Trampoline Park on South Pickett Street and Misha’s second location at the former Olde Towne Gemstones site near the waterfront.
While he hasn’t announced an opening date yet, Monte Durham of “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” plans to open a new hair salon on Union Street near Hotel Indigo this year, a venture that could potentially result in another TV show for Durham.
“As you can see, I have said ‘yes’ to Alexandria waterfront,” Durham said at the meeting. “I am very proud to say that I have been tapped on the shoulder by a production company out of L.A. that has signed a contract to do a sizzle reel on the hair salon, hopefully to take that to a network and sell it so we’ll have a show on that.”
On the restaurant scene, Visit Alexandria pointed out an increase in new Asian restaurants and sweet spots. Following several new Asian restaurants opening in 2019 – including Ya-Gút St., Kung Fu Kitchen and Spice Kraft Indian Bistro – at least eight new Asian spots are slated to open in 2020.
Keep an eye out for new establishments in the Times’ business and foodie sections throughout 2020.