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Fairfax County to apply for $4.2M grant to boost tourism industry

Fairfax County is looking to boost its tourism marketing efforts, which include destinations like Mount Vernon (courtesy Visit Fairfax/April Greer)

Fairfax County will apply for grant funding from the Virginia Tourism Corporation to help boost tourism in the area.

The Board of Supervisors approved a request yesterday (Tuesday) from the Department of Economic Initiatives for $4.17 million that will be used in conjunction with Visit Fairfax, the county’s travel marketing agency.

Virginia has allocated $50 million of its American Recovery Plan Act funds to the Tourism Recovery Program. The Virginia Tourism Corporation will award grants to all localities based on how much they contributed to total state tourism revenues in 2019.

Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar told FFXnow that the organization is “tremendously grateful” for the ARPA grant’s approval.

“This allocation will assist us greatly and go a long way in our recovery efforts of rebuilding and revitalizing the tourism industry of Fairfax County, indeed helping it return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond,” Biggar said in a statement. “It also clearly underscores how significant Fairfax County is to the overall tourism economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The county must submit a plan outlining how it will use the grant, which must go to marketing and promotional efforts. The funds must be spent by June 30, 2024.

According to a draft tourism recovery plan, Fairfax County lost $420 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism. Tourism-related jobs accounted for at least 32% of all job losses in the Commonwealth, with 34% of hospitality job losses coming in Northern Virginia.

Job losses among hotel and restaurant workers were nearly twice as high as any other profession, according to data sourced from the Virginia Employment Commission. The document also notes that 63% of all job losses took place in industries with higher than average representation of people of color.

“The [grant] funds will be utilized to introduce new programs and projects of work that provide incremental economic impact to the county through avenues that Visit Fairfax hasn’t had the ability to previously explore,” Biggar said.

Strategic objectives listed in the county’s recovery plan include:

  • Increasing hotel occupancy and sales tax revenues by putting more group events and business travelers into Fairfax County hotels
  • Attracting and maximizing lucrative sporting tournaments for young and adult athletes
  • Increasing awareness of Fairfax County as a preferred destination for local and international tourist groups

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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