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Regional Tourism Initiatives Are Wave of the Future

Alexandria's Tourism Industry Rebounds from 9/11

Robert Peck, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, addressed the region's cultural "Wave of the Future" at the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association's annual meeting last week.

The vision he unfolded reflected collaborative efforts by the region's private and public sectors to develop Greater Washington into the cultural capital of the world. The region is investing $2.5 billion in new cultural facilities and is strengthening its marketing prowess through organizations such as the newly formed Greater Washington Tourism Alliance (GWTA), spearheaded by the Potomac Conference of the Board of Trade.

"Alexandria has taken a leadership role in the GWTA," said Jo Anne Mitchell, president & CEO of the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association. "We believe strongly in the strength of marketing as a regional tourism destination. Bob Peck's message of the importance of investment in the region's cultural future impacts our own tourism industry." Mitchell currently serves as GWTA's chairman, in addition to her role as Alexandria's tourism executive.

Mitchell reported on Alexandria's recently closed FY 2002 tourism year, which relates to the region's tourism economy. "Alexandria has seen a rebound from the effects of September 11," Mitchell said. "But we're not back where we need to be or want to be. Our accommodations statistics, by which we measure the overall economic health of our industry, show a leveling off that reflects slower regional and national economies."

FY 2002 TOURISM Economic Impact Figures indicate that $425.2 million was spent on tourism in Alexandria from July 2001, through June 2002, down from $488.4 million in FY 2001. Tax revenues derived from tourism spending and from a $1 per room night tax collected by Alexandria's hotels amounted to $10.03 million, compared to $10.6 million in FY 2001. From FY 1999, through FY 2001, Alexandria's tourism industry had experienced a steady increase in revenues and all statistics.

Alexandria's hotel occupancy rebounded from a nearly 40 percent drop following September 11, 2001, to close FY 2002 at minus 11 percent. Hotel occupancy for the Greater Washington region experienced a similar return from 9/11, also ending FY 2002 at minus 11 percent. As hotels within the region dropped their average daily rates during the year to accommodate the slowing tourism industry, Alexandria's rates remained steady, closing at minus 2 percent from FY 2001.

ALEXANDRIA'S HOTELS have seen a narrowing of the gap between the region's revenue per available room figures and its own. "Our figures, which the hotel industry uses as its barometer for profitability, did not decline at the rate of the region or nation," Mitchell said. She sees the region's future success resulting from collaborative efforts.

"Increased collaboration among the destinations within the region and between the public and private sectors will mean that we all succeed," she said. The GWTA has launched its first major marketing initiative, a 24-page holiday and winter travel planner, produced in partnership with MasterCard, and being distributed to nearly two million potential visitors to the region.

"Hearing Bob Peck talk about the many new cultural initiatives underway in the Greater Washington region has stimulated dozens of creative ideas for ways in which we can partner with others around the region," Mitchell said.