Visit Fairfax rolls out new initiatives to market Southeast Fairfax County


View from the banks of the Potomac River in Southeast Fairfax County

A year and a half after the unveiling of the Potomac Banks – Explore Fairfax South tourism brand for Southeast Fairfax County, Visit Fairfax has rolled out some new initiatives to promote attractions and hospitality-oriented businesses around the greater Richmond Highway Corridor.

One of the initiatives, carried out in collaboration with Potomac Banks partners, is the production and printing of the tourism brand’s first marketing piece. The brochure, which is being distributed both to partners and at six visitor centers throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, highlights the area’s natural, arts and cultural, culinary and historical attractions.

According to Patrick Lennon, director of marketing at Visit Fairfax, the destination marketing organization for Fairfax County was selective in where it distributed the brochures, which were funded in part by a Virginia tourism grant received earlier this year.

Map included in Potomac Banks brochure (Credit: Visit Fairfax)

“They’re strategically located at centers with traffic heading this way and at centers with significant touchpoints to travelers with an interest in Northern Virginia,” said Lennon.

The new brochures contain a QR code pointing tourists to the registration site for the newly updated — and free — Potomac Banks Savings Pass. Previously, the pass was a paid marketing opportunity offering reduced-price admissions to Potomac Banks partner sites and other discounts for a limited time period; however, after talking with partners about the best path forward for the pass, Visit Fairfax decided to make it free and with extended validity.

While the old pass lacked flexibility, the new one will enable Visit Fairfax to change out the discount offers, and tourists and local residents to more easily use the pass, said Lennon.

Among the discounts currently offered with the pass are 20% off admission at Gunston Hall and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 10% off entry to the Gum Springs Museum and Cultural Center, 20% off Historic Huntley tours, and discounts on museum shops, gift stores and facility rentals at other Potomac Banks attractions. The pass is good for a year after sign-up.

Credit: Visit Fairfax

The recent progress in advancing the Potomac Banks brand is particularly encouraging for Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, who spearheaded the regional tourism initiative.

"The introduction of the new savings pass and visitor brochure is particularly exciting, actively drawing more visitors to our area and encouraging them to invest their tourism dollars here," said Storck.

“What’s special about this whole thing is the cross-promotion of cultural assets,” added Ali Morris, senior manager of communications and marketing at Visit Fairfax.

Cross-promotional opportunities have increasingly been occurring among Potomac Banks partners, both through the sharing of each other’s events on social media, as well as the development of mutually beneficial marketing packages.

“Partners that haven’t collaborated before are starting to do so because they have complementary activities to offer,” said Lennon, citing Pohick Bay Regional Park and nearby Gunston Hall as examples. The partners are exploring packages and ticketing arrangements that cross-promote each other, he said.

The number of Potomac Banks partners hasn’t changed much in recent time, but Visit Fairfax is seeking to add other partners like the Meadowood Recreation Area on Mason Neck. Visit Fairfax has also gotten more engaged of late with Fort Belvoir, said Lennon, since garrison leadership wants to both make the surrounding community more aware of the installation’s attractions, and Fort Belvoir residents aware of opportunities in the surrounding community.

Banner at Potomac Banks partner Gunston Hall's visitor center

“I feel like the group has really facilitated that type of engagement,” said Lennon. “We’re bearing the fruits of the seeds we’ve been planting along the way.”

One previously announced initiative that has been moving forward, albeit at a slightly slower pace, is the establishment of a tourism improvement district (TID) in Southeast Fairfax County. According to Visit Fairfax, conversations are ongoing with local hotels to get their buy-in for the levying of a tax or “visitor’s fee” on room nights sold. The tax would be collected by the county and redistributed to a separate entity for tourism purposes. By creating the TID, Potomac Banks partners would have consistent, reliable funding for destination marketing programs and materials that end up benefiting the hotels.

Visit Fairfax anticipates making an update about the TID initiative in early 2024, said Lennon.

Moving forward, Potomac Banks partners may consider developing products for group tourism. People from overseas with an interest in topics like agritourism and sustainability are starting to ask Visit Fairfax for related products, said Lennon.

“It’s begun a real conversation among partners in the group because it’s something they haven’t considered before,” he said, noting that participants like the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture could generate revenue from visitors who not only want to visit the Woodlawn historic site but also learn how Arcadia is growing and providing fresh food for economically disadvantaged populations.

“Sitting at the table and discussing these possibilities gets the message out and gets them thinking,” said Lennon. “We’re prepared to ride this wave of opportunity.”

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