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Restaurants, Local Economy Continue to Recover from COVID

Visit Alexandria highlighted partnerships and the pandemic-resilience of Alexandria businesses at its 2021 Annual Meeting Thursday evening.

At the event, themed “Meeting the Challenge – Embracing Change,” Visit Alexandria also announced new strategies to promote tourism and hotel stays in Alexandria. 

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, countless restaurant and hotel managers called Mayor Justin Wilson to ask how they could help. Those managers “were dealing with some decisions they never imagined they’d deal with, and they were still finding a way to give back in our community and help us get this in our rear view mirror,” Wilson said at the meeting.  “We are coming back as a city. We are absolutely coming back.” 

Dining tax revenue has increased every month this year, Wilson noted, and is now higher than it was before the pandemic, indicating robust support for local eateries. Hotels are seeing a much slower recovery as business travel has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, but that trend line is headed in the right direction. 

Visit Alexandria made significant, fast adaptations to their approach in promoting Alexandria as a destination, including creating new programs, flexible hotel programs and highlighting outdoor dining and activities. In addition, Visit Alexandria worked with the Alexandria Health Department to launch the the ALX Promise program — and more than 400 businesses signed up. 

In addition, funding and support from the City of Alexandria allowed City Council and staff to lead the way with multiple zoning and economic adaptions, including expanded outdoor dining areas and the pedestrian-only block on lower King Street, while Back to Business grants were launched and supported by the City and Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP). 

In addition, the City’s “Think Small” destination travel campaign, which leveraged Alexandria’s ranking as a Top 5 Best Small City by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, tapped into research that travelers felt more comfortable in smaller towns and cities.

“For Alexandria’s recovery, we know there is a lot riding on the health of our sector,” said Patricia Washington, president and CEO of Visit Alexandria. “These numbers are positive indicators of progress but clearly we still have a long way to go.”

Visit Alexandria recognized retiring City Manager Mark Jinks and his transformational contributions to the City and the hospitality sector as Jinks is set to retire at the end of this calendar year.

Visit Alexandria also presented a video (below) that honors the city’s frontline hospitality staff, featuring the resilience and dedication of the people that make it possible for small businesses, tours, attractions and hotels to operate and work toward recovery.

Looking Ahead

Visit Alexandria is planning several new promotions for Alexandria fo the upcoming year.  

With American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from the City, Visit Alexandria’s 34% increase in advertising efforts will include new media like streaming audio and Expedia, and an increased presence in YouTube, Connected TV and native advertising. The ARPA advertising expansion includes outreach to audiences of color with two new ad campaigns – a Spanish-language campaign in regional print, radio and social media channels and the just-launched Drop-In Black travel campaign featuring iconic and new travel experiences.

In spring 2022, Visit Alexandria will launch a new website featuring a mobile-first design, faster page speed, new mapping and more. As small cities with big tourism ambitions continue to shine, Alexandria will leverage its new #3 ranking on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2021 Best Small Cities list across various mediums.

Alexandria Living Magazine Staff

Oct. 15, 2021

12:40 p.m.