Reston, VA

As COVID-19 continues to cause major economic disturbances across the country, Visit Fairfax has a new program to support local businesses and people impacted by the pandemic.

Fairfax County is heavily reliant on tourism and visitors for conferences. Visit Fairfax’s president Barry Biggar said the organization is working to combat some of the economic downturn.

Biggar said restrictions on non-essential businesses coupled with the economic downturn have had “devastating” consequences for local businesses, services and eateries in the last three weeks.

While many restaurants are trying to pivot by offering delivery, curbside pickup and delivery, some have temporarily closed. Biggar said that he expects many won’t reopen.

Visit Fairfax staffers are trying to help coordinate tools for the community through the “Fairfax First” program, he said.

The program is a collection of tools, lists and opportunities that residents can take advantage of to support themselves and others during this turbulent time, according to the website. It includes fun things to do while at home, virtual tours of popular attractions, mental health resources and ways to support local businesses.

Visit Fairfax is also promoting “Virginia Is for Restaurant Lovers Takeout Week,” which runs from March 30-April 5.

“Virginians are encouraged to order takeout, delivery or curbside pickup from local restaurants and to use the hashtag #VirginiaEatsLocal to spread the word,” according to Visit Fairfax’s website.

Last year around this time, hotels in the area were at or above 70% capacity, according to Biggar, who added that now they are at or below 18%.

Around Virginia, he said more than 24,000 people in the service industry have lost their jobs permanently due to staffing cuts.

Along with other resources, Visit Fairfax coordinated with local hotels to help first responders find a list of steeply discounted rooms that will put them up if they are either self-isolating away from their families or need another place to rest, according to Biggar.

As the pandemic continues in Fairfax County without any sign of slowing, Biggar said that he can’t make a judgment yet about how this will affect the economic well being of the area going forward, but does predict an eventual rise in domestic travel around the third and fourth quarters later this year.

Though things are “changing every day,” Biggar said he wants people to “start thinking and dreaming about what you want to do when this is over” in terms of vacations and getaways to boost the economy again.

Photo courtesy James B. Crusan III

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