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Visit Alexandria says the city’s tourism rebound will be gradual

Alexandria’s recovery from the pandemic is going faster than expected, according to Visit Alexandria.

Alexandria’s tourism bureau, in its annual meeting last week, reported that consumption-based tax revenue for fiscal year 2021 came in at $59 million. That’s $6 million more than the initial forecast of $53 million, but well below the all-time high of $66 million in fiscal year 2019.

“So far, leisure travel has been the backbone of our recovery,” said Patricia Washington, president and CEO of Visit Alexandria. “But as we move into fall and winter, some return of business travel will be critical.”

Washington said that a number of initiatives kept businesses afloat, including the ALX Promise health accreditation program, the opening of the 100 block of King Street to pedestrian-only traffic, and the gradual return of public events.

In the meantime, Visit Alexandria focused advertising on the city’s dining, waterfront and historic tour experiences.

It also helps that Conde’ Nast has chosen the city as one of the best small cities in the country several years in a row, Washington said.

As for hotel occupancy, the bottom fell out of the market in April 2020, and Alexandria’s recovery has been gradual. Now occupancy is back to just over 50% for the first time since the pandemic began — a far cry from more than 80% occupancy in 2019.

“Clearly we still have a long way to go,” Washington said.

Alexandria lost 4% of its businesses during the pandemic, which Washington said is a testimony to the resilience of businesses, loyal customers and the responsiveness of city agencies.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation is also expecting a gradual recovery, anticipating an improvement of more than 20% in tourism in fiscal year 2022, but still more than 20% down from 2019 levels.

Visit Alexandria’s blog also achieved record annual page views, with 785,000 digital marketing impressions in FY21, an increase of more than 110%.

Last year, the bureau also created Shop Small Week to expand the momentum of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday into a full week.

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