- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Five Northern Virginia counties and cities are pulling their money together to start a tourism initiative to drive visitors to the region.

The $900,000 federally funded campaign, called “The Pursuit of Happiness,” emphasizes the region as a whole, including its golf, historic venues, shopping and cultural activities. The first phase of the campaign is focusing on the region’s 22 golf courses.

It is Northern Virginia’s first conglomerate effort to promote the region, said Jo Anne Mitchell, president and chief executive of the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association.

The campaign will “help us in conveying a consistent quality product for the visitor,” she said.

Area officials say they hope the campaign will help put Northern Virginia back on the map as a destination after losing travel and tourism business since the September 11 attacks.

“This new program is needed,” said Jon Lockwood, director of marketing for the Crystal Gateway Marriott and the Crystal City Marriott, both in Arlington. “It’s critical to the success of our hotels and bringing the economy back to what we want it to be.”

Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, along with Alexandria and Fairfax City, pulled together funding given to them by Congress in late fall 2001 to pay for the campaign.

About $850,000 will be spent on advertising and marketing, including airport and trade show displays. The remaining $50,000 will pay for market research and project administration.

The group is targeting visitors from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York. More than 195,000 direct-mail pieces are being delivered to households in those markets. E-mail ads also will be used.

Print ads have already starting appearing in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Baltimore Sun and AAA World.

A new Web site, www.visitnorthernvirginia.com, will feature details about the region, and in July, online users will be able to design their own itineraries for their visits.

The campaign is promoting golf courses and golf-related packages, including discounted rates from Marriott hotels. In the fall, it will highlight the region’s heritage and will promote regionwide shopping during the holidays.

“Northern Virginia has always had a compelling reason [for people to visit] but we never put our arms around it and defined it,” Mr. Lockwood said.

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