Alexandria, VA—First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam and officials from Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) recognized the City of Alexandria and Visit Alexandria for their essential and strategic COVID-19 recovery programs and announced Visit Alexandria and its Great Walks program as a recipient of a $10,000 WanderLove Recovery Grant during a press conference at Torpedo Factory Art Center.
Tourism is an instant revenue generator in Virginia. In 2018, visitors spent $26 billion, which supported 236,000 work opportunities and contributed $1.8 billion in state and local taxes, according to VTC. In Alexandria, the tourism sector is essential to the economy with visitors contributing $50 million in hotel, restaurant and retail taxes to the city to help fund core city services. The tourism sector accounts for 7 percent of the workforce and it supports Alexandria’s large community of small businesses.
In response to COVID-19, the City of Alexandria and Visit Alexandria swiftly launched a number of strategic programs, regulation adaptations and marketing campaigns to help keep the city safe while mitigating impact on our large community of small businesses.
Alexandria’s COVID-19 recovery initiatives recognized at the press conference include:
- An above-and-beyond safety program for businesses and customers called ALX Promise launched by the Alexandria Health Department in partnership with Visit Alexandria
- Visit Alexandria’s major marketing campaign and content hub called ALX at Home
- Visit Alexandria’s Flex Getaway Hotel Package offering low rates and rooms that can be cancelled with just 24-hours’ notice
- $3.5 million in grants awarded to more than 300 small businesses through the Alexandria Back to Business Grant Program, a partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership
- Regulation flexibility allowing restaurants to expand seating into parking spaces and streets
Visit Alexandria’s Great Walks program, which earned a $10,000 WanderLove Recovery Grant for Destination Marketing Organizations, is a key new initiative for Alexandria’s tourism marketing organization. It strategically targets local drive markets with outdoor experiences such as the newest temporary public art project in the City’s annual series, Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies by Olalekan Jeyifous at Old Town’s Waterfront Park, which explores Alexandria’s African American history. The Great Walks initiative highlights Alexandria’s walkability in themes like architecture, art and history, including the Duke Street Black History Trail. The program also features a hub-and-spoke approach that encourages visitors to venture from Old Town to nearby attractions including George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Mount Vernon Trail and the Del Ray neighborhood.
The DMO WanderLove Recovery Grant is a new grant made available to Virginia’s Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) across the Commonwealth that have been heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic to fund recovery marketing initiatives. WanderLove, the new integrated campaign created by VTC, provides travel inspiration for road trips, outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns, and its signature LOVEworks program. The campaign was created in response to industry research indicating that travelers who are ready will be hitting the road this summer for getaways closer to home.
90 destination marketing organizations, including Visit Alexandria, are recipients of $866,504 in marketing grant funds and will be equipped with creative assets and a toolkit to implement WanderLove in their own marketing.
“We are proud to be a recipient of the WanderLove Recovery Grant,” said Patricia Washington, President & CEO of Visit Alexandria. “Creative and strategic programs like these are what will help bring visitors to Alexandria – and Virginia – and help the Commonwealth to regain vital revenue.”
“Virginia tourism is a critical sector of our economy and has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a press release. “Getting travelers back on the road and spending money in our cities and towns is one of the fastest ways to inject dollars back into our economy and our communities. The Virginia Tourism Corporation’s DMO WanderLove Recovery Grants gives localities the ability to market their destination as safe and welcoming when visitors are ready to resume travel.”