Running counter to the present economic landscape, Alexandria tourism was actually up 3.84 percent in 2007 compared to 2006, topping $584 million in visitor spending. That generated $19.6 million in City taxes and supported 5,600 jobs with a payroll of $101 million.
That was just part of the good news that greeted those attending Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association's Annual Meeting Sept. 25 at the Crown Plaza Old Town. It was buttressed by the keynote speaker, international tourism expert Adam Sacks, founder and managing director, Tourism Economics, who pronounced Alexandria as being "in very good condition economically" from a tourism perspective.
"Alexandria is a recession proof/counter cyclical destination. It is well located and has a lot to offer to not only visitors but also to residents -- both local and regional," Sacks told the crowd assembled in the hotel ballroom.
"Virginia traditionally has done very well in tourism and will continue to do so," Sachs said. Addressing the overall economic crunch Sacks said that the picture is "probably not as bad" as it may appear.
"The fact that inflation continues to remain under control is a very good thing. And, the weakened dollar actually benefits tourism because it makes us more attractive to foreign tourists," Sacks said.
Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks, an ACVA Executive Committee member, kicked off the annual meeting by presenting Charlotte Hall, vice president, Potomac River Boat Company, with ACVA's 2008 David Speck Partner of the Year Award. The recognition is presented yearly to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of Alexandria tourism.
"Charlotte has been a true bridge builder throughout her years of involvement with ACVA," Jinks said. "Charlotte Hall is truly a phenomenal woman who has contributed so much to our tourism industry -- not just during the past year, but since the very early days of the association, to make ACVA what it is today," added Stephanie Brown, ACVA president and CEO.
Praising tourism's revenue generation for the city, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille said, "Tourism is economic development." He also noted the recognition tourism has brought to the city both nationally and internationally.
"Where ever I travel and people ask me where I'm from when I say Alexandria, Va., they seem to know exactly where that is. And, many of them have been here as visitors," Euille said.
"When I grew up here and went away to college and people would ask where I was from I'd say Washington, D.C., because then I didn't have to explain where Alexandria was. That is no longer the case. And, none of this worldwide recognition would have happened without ACVA's activities," he said.
Continuing those efforts, Brown reviewed ACVA's past year's activities and unveiled the organization's new "Brand and Image Study" that is designed to enhance the city's tourism appeal not only to visitors from afar but also to both local and regional residents.
"We use this new brand and image study everyday when considering how to better attract visitors. Alexandria is now in the top 20 of Travelosity's recommended sites," she said.
"For many years we have focused on events. Now we are changing to take a destination approach to our marketing," Brown explained.
She also announced the slogan "Fun Side of The Potomac" was gone. The new marketing phrase is "Shop, Dine and Celebrate on America's Main Street." The new slogan can be adjusted to fit various segments of the advertising media as well as individualized audiences.
Over the past year Alexandria welcomed 3.4 million visitors that accounted for a revenue increase of 19 percent. ACVA has also expended $103,598 over the past year on media buys to promote Alexandria as a tourism destination.
Noting that "Where" magazine, which is distributed by hotels nationwide, is one of the most read publications by tourists, Brown stated that ACVA has increased its advertising in that publication to a full page. The ads now focus on what the city has to offer not just what is taking place at a given time.
"We have come to understand our brand as the perfect balance between historic ambiance and contemporary flare. This new brand focus has become a guiding principle. We have introduced a number of new products this year designed to motivate, inform and disperse visitors," Brown said.
Prior to Brown's presentation City Councilman Ludwig Gaines reviewed the activities of the National Harbor Collaborative Task Force in promoting various elements designed to appeal to regional tourism. These have included such things as enhancing the waterfront docks, creating the King Street Trolley, and bringing Alexandria museums to the street through the efforts of the Office of Historic Alexandria.
As stated by ACVA Board Chairman John Varghese, general manager, Westin Alexandria, in welcoming the crowd, "If I had to chose one word for this past year's success it would be "collaboration." He also recognized two outgoing Board members for their years of service to ACVA and Alexandria tourism -- Jim Singerling, Club Managers Association of America and Pat Troy, owner, Pat Troy's Ireland's Own Restaurant and Pub.