Fairfax Wants Arlington’s Tourism Dollars — Fairfax County wants Arlington’s crown as the biggest tourism center in Virginia. “It’s our goal to beat out Arlington, and we’re going to continue giving it all we’ve got,” said Fairfax’s tourism chief, who is pushing for the county to build a new convention center. [InsideNova]
Free House in South Arlington — Here’s some truly affordable housing: a historic, all-steel Lustron house is being offered for free in south Arlington, to anyone willing to haul it away. [Twitter]
Super Pollo Wins Commuting Competition — Super Pollo in Ballston has won a county-sponsored competition “designed to encourage the Hispanic workforce to use modes of transportation other than driving alone when commuting to work.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
ACPD Shrouding Badges for Fallen Officer — The Arlington County Police Department is shrouding its badges to pay respect to Ashley Guindon, the rookie Prince William County police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Saturday. [Twitter]
Tourism Tax Authorization Passes Legislature — With bipartisan lobbying help from County Board member John Vihstadt (I), a measure reauthorizing Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge has passed the Virginia General Assembly. Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) still must sign the bill into law, and Arlington will have to get it reauthorized in two years due to a sunset clause. The tax will help fund Arlington’s tourism promotion efforts. [InsideNova]
Laich Traded to Toronto — Just a couple of days after he left a server a big tip at Don Tito in Clarendon, long-time Washington Capital Brooks Laich has been traded to Toronto. Laich and celebrity fiancée Julianne Hough were often spotted hanging out at Arlington bars like Don Tito and A-Town. [WJLA]
Wakefield on It’s Academic — Wakefield High School was scheduled to compete on an episode of the local TV quiz show It’s Academic on Saturday. [Twitter]
‘Treasure Island’ Reviewed — Arlington-based theater company Encore Stage and Studio has garnered positive reviews for its production of “Treasure Island,” which runs through March 6. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
Shirlington’s ‘Hula Girl’ Makes Mai Tai for Fox 5 — Mikala Brennan, the owner of Hula Girl Bar and Grill in Shirlington, stopped by Fox 5 midday show Friday to show viewers how to make her signature Hula Girl Mai Tai. [Fox 5]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
In 2014, Arlington had 6 million visitors who spent nearly $3 billion in the County, making Arlington the number one county for economic impact of tourism in Virginia.
This is a substantial boost to our local economy. In just tax dollars alone, tourism revenue generates approximately $81 million in County taxes and $108 million in state taxes per year. Without these revenues, each Arlington household would pay an average of $1,800 each year in taxes to receive the same services.
Tourism also accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. As the President & CEO of the Chamber, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many in our hospitality industry who work hard every day and reflect positively on our community to those who visit.
Every year the Chamber hosts our Hospitality Awards which recognizes individuals in the industry who go above and beyond. These awards are not for managers or properties, but for the front-line individuals who make a difference – whether it’s the concierge who takes off his own tie and irons it for a guest who spilled mustard on his, or the parking attendant who rescues a guest during a blizzard. These are the people who make Arlington’s first impression on visitors and keep them coming back to our great county.
While our hospitality industry is thriving, its potential to grow has been significantly limited by budget constraints. As the chart below shows, the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service’s budget pales in comparison to our neighboring jurisdictions’ tourism budgets. While the ACVS staff is effective with the resources available, they are severely financially constrained.
More than twenty years ago, the Chamber successfully lobbied the General Assembly for an additional 0.25% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) surcharge on hotel rooms in Arlington with all revenues to fund tourism. The Chamber has an active Hotel General Managers Committee who were, and continue to be, fully supportive of this. Even with this tax, our hotel room tax rates are extremely competitive, particularly compared to DC. This is a surcharge that pays for itself in additional revenue generated.
The TOT surcharge had a three year sunset clause and was renewed consecutively until 2011 when it lapsed. That lapse had nothing to do with tourism, but with the political climate in Virginia and some legislators’ view of Arlington.
The Chamber is working hard to make sure that politics don’t get in the way of what is not only good for Arlington County, but also good for Northern Virginia and the entire Commonwealth. Reinstating the additional TOT has been the Chamber’s top legislative priority this session. We have worked closely with the entire Arlington delegation to the General Assembly on this issue, with Senator Janet Howell introducing SB160 and Delegate Patrick Hope introducing HB 1147. I, along with our Chair Todd Yeatts and a number of Chamber members, have gone down to Richmond several times for these hearings. At this time SB160 has passed the Senate and HB 1147 passed the House of Delegates just last week.
The Arlington Chamber is hopeful this legislation will be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe and is incredibly optimistic about the impact these additional tourism funds will have not only on Arlington business, but the larger community.
Four File to Run for School Board — It looks like there are four candidates running for two Arlington School Board seats this year. Incumbent Nancy Van Doren is running for reelection, while School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez is retiring. First-time candidates Tannia Talento and Michael Shea are seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board, while Realtor Chaz Crismon has filed papers to run without seeking the endorsement. [InsideNova]
More on Complete Streets Plan — The Arlington County Board approved a new Neighborhood Complete Streets program last month. The program ranks road projects by “points” earned by problems like speeding issues, frequent crashes, poor lighting and a lack of sidewalks, plus proximity to schools and transit. Some residents, however, are unhappy that the program doesn’t allow neighbors to directly vote on projects in their community. [Arlington Connection]
Arlington May Get Its Tourism Tax Back — Five years after having its ability to impose a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge stripped by the Virginia General Assembly, as retribution for the county’s I-395 HOT lanes lawsuit, the state legislature may be poised to finally give Arlington its tax authority back. Revenue from the hotel tax funds the county’s tourism promotion efforts and is supported by the local tourism industry. [InsideNova]
It’s Ash Wednesday — Among the churches placing ashes on the foreheads of commuters at local Metro stations for Ash Wednesday this morning was Calvary United Methodist Church in Aurora Highlands, which greeted commuters at the Pentagon City Metro station. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
More Metro Delays — A disabled train outside of the Farragut West Metro station produced big delays for those heading into Virginia via the Orange, Silver and Blue lines this morning. [Twitter]
Local Credit Card Holiday Spending — Arlington residents are charging an average of $718.43 on credit cards for holiday gifts this year, estimates the website Nerd Wallet. While that seems like a high number, collectively those in Arlington buying holiday gifts without using a credit card are missing out on $138,846.46 in rewards points, the website says. [Nerd Wallet]
Arlington Still Tops for Va. Tourism — Arlington remains the top tourism destination in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The county attracts more than 6 million people who spend nearly $3 billion here and generate some $81 million in local taxes annually. The tourism industry accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington. [Arlington County]
County Unveils New Online Calendar — Arlington County has rolled out Arlington Today, a new and improved calendar of local events. First up this morning on the calendar: a performance by The Rocking Chairs, the “in-house band” of the Lee Community and Senior Center. [Twitter]
Local Startup Raises $16 Million — Want to start a company in Arlington that can raise big bucks? Do so in the cybersecurity field. Data security software maker ThreatConnect, which recently moved from Shirlington to the Ballston area, has raised $16 million in a new round of funding. [DC Inno]
Arlington Recognized as Bike Friendly Community — Arlington has been named a Silver-level “Bicycle Friendly Community” for the third time since 2007. We’re one of 75 communities in the U.S. to achieve that rating. [Arlington County]
First Day of Fall — Today marks the autumnal equinox and the first day of astronomical fall in the Northern Hemisphere. We’re losing about two-and-a-half minutes of daylight per day, as the sun rises later and sets earlier. [Capital Weather Gang]
Arlington Unveils New Mobile Visitors Center — Arlington County, which generates about $81 million per year in tourism-related tax revenue, has unveiled a new mobile visitor center. The “Stay Arlington” branded cargo van will provide visitor information and services, primarily from parking spots near five Arlington Metro stations, but also at large events like the Marine Corps Marathon. [Arlington County]
New Traffic System on I-66 Underwhelms — Drivers are scratching their heads, wondering what exactly VDOT is accomplishing with its new, $39 million Active Traffic Management system. The system went live last week. It “combines sensors, cameras, computers and signs to help drivers figure out what’s ahead between Route 29 in Gainesville and the D.C. line.” [Washington Post]
ACFCU Launches New Marketing Campaign — The Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, a nonprofit local financial provider and ARLnow.com advertiser, has launched a new website, NotABank.org as part of a new marketing campaign. “We are for people, not for profit,” the website says.
Pike Office Building Purchased — Bethesda-based Cascade Realty Partners has purchased the 30,000 square foot office building at 3401 Columbia Pike for $4.8 million. The office building is 75 percent leased to Bank of America. [Virginia Business]
Arlington Generates $3 Billion in Travel Spending — Arlington County generated $3 billion in tourism spending in 2014, a 5 percent increase over 2013, according to data released Monday. Tourism supports almost 25,000 jobs in Arlington and generated $80 million in local tax revenue. Arlington accounted for about an eighth of Virginia’s $22.4 billion in tourism spending. “These record numbers are a testament to the excellent quality and value of Arlington’s travel and tourism offerings, and the strong collaboration between the County and local businesses in promoting our destination both domestically and internationally,” said Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins. [Arlington County]
Tejada: Crazy Transportation Ideas Better Than No Ideas — Retiring Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada says monorail-like pod transit on Columbia Pike may seem like a crazy idea, but at least it’s an idea. “The JPods or gondolas – some folks might chuckle, but at least the residents are coming up with options, and those who oppose things are not,” he said in an interview. [WTOP]
Moran: Federal Shutdown Coming — Former Democratic congressman Jim Moran, who represented Arlington in Virginia’s Eighth District, says he believes a federal government shutdown is coming because of a budget impasse between Republicans and Democrats. “We have a dysfunctional legislative branch,” said the 12-term congressman, who took a job as a legislative advisor for a D.C. law firm after leaving office. [WTOP]
Future I-66 Tolls May Be Steep — A plan to toll vehicles with fewer than three occupants on I-66 may cost commuters up to $16 round trip just for travel between D.C. and the Capital Beltway. [Washington Post]
County to Buy, Tear Down Home for Park — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve the purchase of a home at 2827 N. Harrison Street. The county plans to raze the home and incorporate the 9,632 square foot site into adjacent Chestnut Hills Park. The total cost will be nearly $800,000 and will come from the county’s parkland acquisition fund. [InsideNova]
New Homeless Shelter to Open Next Month? — Months delayed, Arlington’s new year-round homeless shelter is getting closer to opening. The facility in Courthouse, located across the street from police headquarters, is now expected to open by late September or early October. [InsideNova]
Orange Line Delays Reported — Passengers are reporting delays of 10-20 minutes on the Orange Line this morning. Metro says inbound trains are indeed delayed from Vienna. No problems have been reported with Silver Line trains so far. [Twitter]
County Producing International Tourist Videos — Arlington County is working with the group Brand USA to produce tourism videos aimed at international visitors. Filming took place around various Arlington landmarks last month. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Mark White
The tower, currently under construction at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Moore and Lynn Streets, will provide the public with a place to look down on D.C., the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery from 390 feet up. The building will be one of the tallest in the region, and local officials think it will be the key for making Rosslyn a major tourist hub.
“We really believe that’s going to be a game changer,” said Rosslyn Business Improvement District President Mary-Claire Burick. “Moreso than other projects because it will really position Rosslyn as a tourist destination. This is something that we really think will be quite a draw into Rosslyn.”
The observation deck will pair with the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, five blocks down the road, for major tourist destinations that will create a “critical mass,” Burick said.
“Iwo Jima, the Netherlands Carrilon, Arlington Cemetery is a few blocks away,” she said. “All these things are right within this core area, and it’s so centrally located and accessible. We have a large cluster of hotels here with the Marriott, the Hyatt, Le Meridien … I think when you look at all that together, you’re now starting to see a critical mass of things happening in Rosslyn.”
The Iwo Jima memorial and Netherlands Carrilon drew a combined 1.4 million visitors in 2007, the most recently available data, according to Arlington Director of Convention and Visitor Service Emily Cassell. Arlington National Cemetery was the county’s most popular attraction, at 4 million visitors.
Cassell said Arlington expects the CEB Tower observation deck to draw comparable numbers to similar decks in New York City and Chicago, cities with larger — but perhaps less monumental — skylines than D.C.
“Being able to see the nation’s capital from that perspective and having a 360-degree view would be really exceptional,” Cassell said.
Another potential tourist attraction down the road: a boathouse along the Potomac River. The National Park Service, which owns Arlington’s shoreline, said this summer that “the ball is rolling” on preliminary plans for the boathouse and Rosslyn boosters are salivating at yet another feature for the neighborhood. They’re also eyeing the potential for a gondola across the river to Georgetown.
“The gondola would represent the fun aspect of what Rosslyn is all about,” said Peter Greenwald, the Chairman of the Rosslyn BID and a senior advisor for Penzance, “with connectedness in new, fun and different ways that play into the creative class and the innovation that Rosslyn is becoming known for.”
The “critical mass” would likely benefit the future development planned for Rosslyn. Besides Central Place (the CEB Tower project), there’s the approved Rosslyn Gateway and Colony House project, plus plans for a Rosslyn Plaza redevelopment. In total, those could bring more than 800 new hotel rooms to Rosslyn in the not-too-distant future.
Despite its bright future, there still lingers the perception that Rosslyn is nothing more than a transit hub filled with office buildings. Burick’s charge since she was hired at the BID last fall is to change that perception.
“We want to market Rosslyn as a modern, premier destination,” Burick said. “I think when you come here on weekends and evenings, you’re already seeing that the streets do have life. I think the perception is already changing.”
Image courtesy The JBG Companies
Arlington No. 1 in Va. for Tourism — For the fourth year in a row, tourists spent more money in Arlington than any other place in Virginia. Tourism generated about $2.8 billion in visitors spending in 2012, a 3.9 percent increase over 2011. The increase in spending happened despite the partial defunding of the county’s Convention and Visitors Services in 2012. County officials and local hotel managers are lobbying the state legislature to restore Arlington’s former 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge in order to better promote tourism and visitor spending. [Arlington County]
New Additions to N. Va. Senior Olympics — About 730 people are participating in the 31st annual Northern Virginia Senior Olympics at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). The 13-day event features two new sports: rowing and handball. [Sun Gazette]
Online Library Card Sign-Up — Just in time for September’s national Library Card Sign-up Month, Arlington Public Library now allows Arlington residents to sign up for a library card completely online. It allows instant access to the library’s eBooks, magazines, streaming movies and premium research websites. [Arlington Public Library]
Photo courtesy Jonathan Nateghi-Asli
Arlington County was named the No. 34 most-visited destination for meetings and conferences for the last year.
The ranking, from event management software provider Cvent, is based on meeting and event booking activity in the company’s system. Arlington fell eight spots from last year’s ranking of 26.
“Earning this ranking validates the significant effort that [Arlington Convention and Visitors Services] and Arlington hotels put into making the county an attractive choice for meetings, a critical part of our economy,” ACVS Director Emily Cassell said in a press release. “It also reflects Arlington’s appeal as a vibrant urban destination in the heart of the nation’s capital – one that offers the convenience of downtown D.C., but at hotel rates averaging up to 20 percent less.”
From the Arlington County press release:
Arlington generates more domestic visitor spending than any other county in Virginia: nearly $2.7 billion, or 13.1 percent of total visitor spending in the Commonwealth in 2011. The Arlington travel and tourism industry supports nearly 24,000 local jobs and generates more than $73 million in local tax receipts.
Cassell says a key factor in Arlington’s success is the close collaboration of ACVS, meeting planners and hotel representatives to provide a highly tailored event experience for attendees. Customized amenities such as on free on-site convention services and destination promotional materials help pique guests’ desire to experience Arlington’s national history and local flavor. Successful meetings influence repeat visitation, which Arlington Economic Development research shows increased 30 percent between 2007 and 2011.
Orlando, Fla., was named the top meeting and conference destination in the country for the second straight year, followed by Chicago and Las Vegas.
Alexandria dropped one spot from last year’s list to No. 41. Washington, D.C., was named the No. 7 meeting destination after being No. 2 in 2012. The activity was tracked from July 2012 to June 2013.
Wakefield Captures District Championship — On Friday, the Wakefield High School boy’s basketball team defeated Mount Vernon 69-60 to become the National District champions. Wakefield is now competing in the Northern Region regional tournament. Yorktown, which fell 42-82 to Wakefield in the National District tournament, is also competing as a lower seed in the Northern Region tournament. [Northern Virginia Sports]
Neighbors Want Security Guard at New Homeless Shelter — Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominium in Courthouse are pressing Arlington officials to place a 24-hour security guard at the county’s planned year-round homeless shelter at 2020 14th Street N. Residents say they’re worried about an increase in crime as a result of the shelter moving next to their building. A resident’s Freedom of Information Act request revealed that there have been just under 6 police responses to the existing shelter per year, on average, between 1994 and 2011, mostly for alcohol-related incidents. [Arlington Mercury]
Arlington Tourism Tax Bill Passes General Assembly — A bill that would restore Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge is destined for the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell. The state legislature approved the bill, which will restore the tax authority — which is used to fund tourism promotion — for three years. [Sun Gazette]
Conservative Tech Biz Booming in Arlington — Business is booming for a small Arlington-based conservative digital advocacy company. The co-founder of Red Edge, which is based above an antique shop in Lyon Park, says he expects the business to double or triple this year as Republicans look to make up ground lost to Democrats in the online sphere. [New York Times]
Registration Open for Ballston LaunchPad Challenge — Registration is now open for the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. The contest challenges entrepreneurs to come up with the “next great idea,” for a chance to pitch their innovation to billionaire Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. [Ballston BID]
Tourists and visitors spent some $2.7 billion in Arlington in 2011, making Arlington the top county in Virginia for visitor spending
But what are those tourists doing in Arlington once they get here? According to Google, they’re largely visiting military monuments and shopping malls.
Google lists the following as the most frequently mentioned Arlington tourist attractions on the web.
- Arlington National Cemetery
- U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima)
- Arlington House
- Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
- Tomb of the Unknowns
- United States Air Force Memorial
- Ballston Common Mall
- Netherlands Carillon
The travel website Trip Advisor also maintains a list of Arlington tourist attractions. The following are the ten most traveler-recommended tourist attractions in Arlington.
The surcharge expired on Jan. 1, 2012 after Del. Tim Hugo (R), of Fairfax County, blocked a renewal bill in retaliation for Arlington’s lawsuit against high occupancy toll lanes on I-395. The Hotel General Managers’ Committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce has been calling for the Virginia General Assembly to reestablish the taxing authority, which brought in nearly $1 million per year to fund tourism promotion efforts.
A bill proposed by Howell today would allow Arlington County to reinstate the tax surcharge on hotel rooms, and extends the taxing authority in perpetuity. The bill has been referred to the state Senate’s Committee on Finance.
An electronic tourism kiosk, located at 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, is set to be removed.
The Arlington County Board must ultimately approve the removal, but the kiosk already has a sign indicating that it’s out of service. In a report to the Board, county staff say the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service kiosk “requires replacement, due to aging, at significant cost.” Staff recommends removing the kiosk and not replacing it.
“With the increased use of smart phone technology and the mobile-optimized version of the Stay Arlington website, the need for the kiosk is substantially reduced,” staff wrote. “ACVS wishes to remove the kiosk and repair the property to its original condition.”
The kiosk was first installed in August 2008. It was paid for by the developer of the adjacent Waterview complex, at a cost of $50,000. In 2010, the county touted the kiosk as one of an “array of innovative new visitor service options” in Arlington, though one local blogger who used it questioned its ultimate utility.
“Unfortunately, the visitor information kiosk in Rosslyn isn’t innovative or particularly useful,” the Ode Street Tribune blog said in early 2010. “It provides information and directions to Rosslyn-area dining, shopping, attractions (Iwo Jima, etc.), accommodations, services (parking, etc.), and events. That might be useful, but now many persons can get better information and directions through their smart phones.”
Since the kiosk was a County Board-mandated site plan requirement, the Board must first advertise and then the county must hold a public hearing on the site plan change before the kiosk can be removed.