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Buried Tourism Treasure

FXVA will be new symbol of Fairfax County tourism.

Anyone traveling through Fairfax County this spring and summer should be aware they may be walking, running or driving over a new Infiniti FX35 buried beneath them. It's not there because of an accident. It was put there purposely by the Fairfax County Convention and Visitors Bureau. This is a real finders-keepers.

It's all part of the new tourism promotion program initiated by the Bureau entitled "FX Marks the Spot." And, the Infiniti is the grand prize in a treasure hunt to discover the many tourism treasures throughout Fairfax County.

"Why don't we do a better job of marketing ourselves? That is exactly what we are setting out to change," C. Arnie Quirion, president and CEO, Fairfax County Convention & Visitors Bureau told members of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce during their "First Tuesday" luncheon at the Mount Vernon Country Club.

"We need to be able to identify exactly what it is we are going to market. All marketing, to be successful, has to make common sense to the audience," Quirion said to the 50-plus members gathered in the club's dining room.

To do that the bureau has launched a new campaign that Quirion hopes will be readily identifiable "by this time next year." Its primary identifier is the symbol "FXVA."

It will appear on signs throughout the county — on buses, on posters directing tourist to various venues, on the web site and all tourism literature. This is supplemented by maps of the county that have been superimposed on a bus, a van and a Segway. The latter travels throughout malls distributing county tourism literature.

In addition to promoting tourism, both internal and external, the Bureau is also attempting to create a "sense of place." According to Quirion, "Fairfax County lacks a sense of place or identity. Most people who travel here from elsewhere have no idea when they are in Fairfax County or where that really is."

A RECENT SURVEY conducted by the bureau uncovered the following statistics:

* 56 percent of visitors come to Fairfax county to visit family and friends. That means selling tourism at home

* Fairfax County contains 29 percent of the entire region's tourism assets

* 22 percent of all the hotel rooms in the region are located in Fairfax County

* Fairfax County is centrally located in the identified tourism region. In fact, Fairfax City is the center.

* Based on figures from both national and local sources tourism promotion is under-funded in Fairfax County.

Initiated in July of 2004, the Bureau is a non-profit organization operated under a memorandum of agreement with county government, according to Quirion. "It was formed to effectively market the county as a tourism destination," he said.

Funding presently amounts to $15 million, most of which is generated by a hotel room tax. They also have garnered approximately one half million from marketing a variety of "branding" items touting the FXVA logo, he explained. "Our culture at the bureau is to think big and outside the box," Quirion stated.

"To be successful we have to market the entire region. People coming here don't really care if they are in Fairfax County, Washington D.C., or other places. They want to see and visit all the things that are available," he stated.

Quirion defined the "region" as extending from Baltimore to Fredericksburg, north to south, and from Annapolis to the Shenandoah, east to west. However, the immediate area that draws the most tourists is southeast Fairfax County, according to Quirion.

"The reason for this is that you have the most historic sites and they are clustered making it easier for tourist to get the most in to their travel time and effort," he told the Chamber audience.

AS FOR THE BURIED Infiniti SUV, it is planned to become the reward of someone who wins the Bureau's "Treasure Hunt" to be launched April 17. "It's going to be treasure hunting Fairfax-style," he said.

"We are the only destination you can tour completely by computer," he said. That is the essence of the treasure hunt — to "discover the treasures of Fairfax County," as the brochure states.

The online treasure hunt will run through Labor Day. Contestants will be asked a series of questions about Fairfax County. "All correct entries are eligible for a chance to participate in a live FXVA Treasure Hunt," according to the explanatory brochure.

At the conclusion of the contest 10 names will be drawn to participate in finding the buried Infiniti, Quirion explained. Entrants with incorrect answers will be given coupons to be redeemed at participating hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. "Every one wins," according to the contest.

In order to participate, visit fxva.com starting April 17 to register and pull up the treasure map. "Participate in our online treasure hunt and you could get the opportunity to go on a real treasure hunt in FXVA," according to the bureau's promotion literature.

"If a lucky person locates the buried Infiniti by following the clues we will excavate it and off they go," Quirion said.

In addition to the bureau presentation, this month's regular First Tuesday luncheon also featured displays by various area tourist venues, such as Mount Vernon Estate and Woodlawn Plantation. Prior to the program, the Chamber leadership recognized their Executive Director, Holly Dougherty, for her management of the organization by presenting her with a special gift certificate.