ALEXANDRIA, VA – Earlier today, Wednesday, September 23, Visit Alexandria held its 2020 Annual Meeting. During the virtual meeting, the nonprofit tourism company highlighted its COVID-19 response programs and the importance of community resilience.
The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the tourism industry, and it could take years for businesses to recover. Visit Alexandria’s strong response, according to a press release, was due in large part to “record-setting results during the first eight months of the fiscal year, July 2019 to February 2020.”
Before the pandemic, Alexandria was named the third “Best Small City in the U.S.” at the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Last year, the city saw its highest-ever economic impact from travel. Visitors from more than 50 miles away spent $881 million, generating $28.6 million in tax revenue, according to a report by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
With the arrival of COVID-19 in March, Visit Alexandria shifted its focus from promoting gatherings in public spaces to the endorsement of safer alternatives and supporting small businesses. The move was prompted by federal and state guidelines and associated stay-at-home orders.
Adapting to a New Reality: ALX at Home and ALX Promise
To adapt to the new circumstances, the organization launched ALX at Home, featuring more than 200 ways to support local businesses with curbside and at-home friendly content. In May, Visit Alexandria collaborated with the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) to launch ALX Promise. This program is designed to not only promote but protect the health and safety of customers and employees. The ALX Promise involves training in deep cleaning and other measures to stop the spread of the virus. It is a commitment to wearing face masks, using hand sanitizer, and practicing social distancing. To date, more than 400 businesses have joined the program.
A New State Holiday
As a result of a renewed commitment to racial equity in 2019, the City of Alexandria, the Office of Historic Alexandria and Visit Alexandria consulted with the Alexandria Black History Museum to determine how to appropriately recognize the Juneteenth holiday this year. The holiday, recognized for the first time in Virginia three months ago, is the oldest national celebration of the end of slavery in this country.
Supporting Black-Owned Businesses
Visit Alexandria also produced the blog post 24 Black-Owned Businesses in Alexandria to Support Right Now, which generated press coverage. The post received the most views the VisitALX blog has ever garnered in one day, standing as the top 2020 blog post.
Restaurant Week and the Summer Sidewalk Sale
With assistance from city government, which included transforming the 100 block of King Street into a “pedestrian zone,” Visit Alexandria promoted Alexandria Restaurant Week To-Go. The dining program relied on its new carryout and curbside pickup model to bring much-needed income to participating restaurants. For the Alexandria Summer Sidewalk Sale, the 1100 block of King became, in the words of the press release, “a new pedestrian and information hub.”
Additional Recovery Initiatives
Visit Alexandria’s COVID-19 recovery initiatives include additional programs targeting local drive markets such as the Great Walks program that market walkable outdoor experiences in themes like Black history, architecture and art. The Flex Getaway Hotel Package offers low rates and rooms that can be cancelled with just 24-hours’ notice. Only in ALX is a campaign highlighting experiences unique to the city.
Plans for 2021
Visit Alexandria also discussed programs for the 2021 Fiscal Year. These include the promotion of hybrid meetings and micro weddings and the launch of virtual site tours and virtual experiences.
A Lasting Message
Meeting organizers showed a video to close the virtual gathering that highlights the resilience of Alexandria’s community during this unprecedented time. To watch the video, click HERE.