There’s a brand new “Potomac” in town.
Fairfax County unveiled “Potomac Banks” Wednesday, the new tourism-focused branding for the southern part of the county and its historical and cultural attractions.
In a press conference on the literal banks of the Potomac River at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, Fairfax government and tourism leaders said the new branding would help to draw new and old visitors back to southern Fairfax’s museums, historical attractions, wineries and breweries.
The branding effort was kicked off in 2019 with a “destination development assessment” by the Mount Vernon Task Force, according to a county press release. But it took on new significance during the COVID-19 pandemic, when tourism to the area and around the nation plummeted. Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said that in 2020, hotel stays in the area dropped to about 10% of their normal levels.
According to a county analysis, Fairfax’s tourism industry brought in over $3.4 billion in 2019 in overall economic impact, but that number fell to under $2 billion for 2020. The hope for the rebranding is that it will draw visitors to Mount Vernon as well as other county attractions.
“[Mount Vernon] is often visited by folks who then go on to Washington, D.C., missing some of our state’s and our county’s greatest cultural resources,” said Doug Bradburn, Mount Vernon’s CEO. “I think that’s one of the things we want to try to help highlight.”
The central design for the new brand image features three silhouetted figures. Duggar says that the tri-cornered hat represents the area’s colonial history, the second figure represents suffragists, and the third figure recognizes the way the area’s Black population – both free and enslaved – helped to build Fairfax County and the nation at large.
In addition to the new brand identity for the southern part of Fairfax, the area is also going to encompass the county’s first “tourism improvement district,” which Duggar said will likely be established later this year. A board representing the area’s tourism drivers will be appointed to oversee a possible levee that would go back into the district’s funds for marketing or capital projects. The county is also launching a new “Potomac Banks Savings Pass,” which will offer visitors discounted admission to Mount Vernon, George Mason’s Gunston Hall, the Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House, and more. The passes cost $25 for visitors ages 6-11 and $42 for those 12 and up.
“We didn't have a way, really, to thread all of our enormous assets in South County together in a package that people could see … that they could come here and spend days learning about our history and seeing the many assets that we have in South County,” County Chairman Jeff McKay said Wednesday. “And so to get to this point to thread these together in a compact way for people to understand, is really important.”