As the meetings industry begins to recover, planners now have a range of new considerations when choosing a destination for their meeting.
Safety and peace of mind are top priorities for many attendees, while accessibility and outdoor venues that allow for physical distancing are important concerns. Planners are also looking for unique differentiators that offer something that you can’t find at any other destination. Alexandria, located on the Potomac River minutes from Washington, D.C., offers solutions for many of the top considerations sought by planners and attendees for safe and successful meetings and events.
1. Walkable & Accessible
After a year of disruption to business travel, there is increased demand for drivable destinations and easily accessible hubs that simplify travel. Meeting groups are also looking for walkable destinations that make it easy for attendees to get a sense of place without increased transit.
Alexandria offers easy access to drivers via major interstate highways, and is also located minutes from Reagan National Airport. It boasts four Metrorail stations, Amtrak service and water taxi service. Old Town Alexandria offers a walkable mile directly on the waterfront, lined with 18th and 19th century architecture and more than 200 restaurants and shops, making it easy for attendees to explore the historic city.
2. Outdoor Venues
Outdoor venues are sought after by safety conscious groups, and Alexandria offers a wealth of options including outdoor waterfront dining. New additions to its waterfront dining scene include Ada’s on the River, which opened in January 2021 with Executive Chef Randall J. Matthews who has worked under some of Washington D.C.’s most celebrated Michelin-starred chefs. The restaurant draws design inspiration from 19th century female mathematics pioneer Ada Lovelace, and offers 160 indoor seats as well as 100 outdoor patio seats. Also new for 2021 is BARCA Pier & Wine Bar, a seasonal outdoor eatery inspired by Barcelona’s beach bars and made from carved-out shipping containers.
Alexandria’s newest outdoor waterfront attraction is the tall ship Providence, a full-scale reproduction of one of the most renowned ships of the Continental Navy. The ship offers specialty cruises featuring themed tastings of craft beer, wine and rum; as well as educational programs and exclusive dinners in the Captain’s Cabin.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate offers several outdoor venue options, including its East Lawn, which can accommodate 1,200 and boasts views over the Potomac River. George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill is located near the Estate and offers unique event spaces for smaller gatherings, accommodating groups of up to 60 indoors and 250 tented.
3. Health & Safety
Safety and sanitation concerns remain top of mind for planners and attendees when selecting a destination. Alexandria launched the ALX Promise Gold in May 2021, which builds on its ALX Promise program launched in May 2020, focused on safety guidelines and including hundreds of participating businesses.
ALX Promise Gold partners can display a shield on their window, which certifies that the business thoroughly cleans and sanitizes its establishment; ensures staff are trained on COVID-19 precautions and safety measures; keeps current on health guidance; offers employees paid time off to get tested if they feel sick and to be vaccinated against COVID-19; and works with the Alexandria Health Department to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensuring any exposed staff or customers are notified.
4. Unique Programs
Alexandria offers unique leadership, strategic development and team building opportunities through the Leadership Collection at Alexandria. The collection consists of three programs offering engaging content and high-level facilitators. The George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon puts participants to the test in training that includes simulated historic crisis scenarios from Washington’s time as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army or as first President of the United States. The McChrystal Group Leadership Academy, founded by retired four-star general Stan McChrystal, offers hands-on simulations and experiential scenarios such as a team-based exercise on how the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command worked together to defeat terrorist networks. While Building Momentum is a veteran-owned problem solving, technology and engineering consulting group that offers hands-on team building activities that employ 21st century technology such as 3D printing, laser cutting, welding, electronic and robotics.
5. Diversity & Inclusivity
Destinations that welcome diversity and highlight inclusive history are sought after by meeting groups, and Alexandria offers several programs that explore the region’s African American history and culture, with many taking place in an outdoor setting. Manumission Tour Company offers guided cultural heritage walking tours exploring areas such as Old Town Alexandria’s Duke Street Corridor, and including sites such as the Franklin and Armfield Slave Trading Company, Shiloh Baptist Church, Alexandria National Cemetery and more. The tour company also offers the Alexandria Underground Railroad Tour, which relays real life stories of the formerly enslaved in Alexandria escaping to freedom, based on abolitionist William Still’s 1871 book “The Underground Railroad.” Self-guided tours are also available, such as the African American Heritage Trail walking tour route; and Courageous Journey: Alexandria’s Black History Driving Tour, which includes eight sites of cultural and historical significance.
For more information, go to MeetAlexandriaVA.com.