Business is booming for hotels along the Route 1 corridor in southeast Fairfax County thanks, in part, to the expansions at Fort Belvoir and increased tourism to the Mount Vernon Estate, according to local hotel managers.
More hotels in the area could also bring related new business such as restaurants, said Tony Fontana, the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation’s marketing manager.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” he said. “We’d like to see that investment.”
Barry Biggar, president and CEO of Visit Fairfax, a tourism promotion and marketing nonprofit, said the new hospital at Fort Belvoir is adding to the number of visitors in the region.
“That’s a considerable piece of infrastructure and addition to Fort Belvoir,” he said. “…That requires more infrastructure in the way of hotels to host family members who will be there visiting their loved ones and service personnel.”
Biggar also pointed to the area’s top three tourist destinations—Mount Vernon, Gunston Hall and Woodlawn Plantation, which he calls Fairfax County’s “historic triangle”—as playing a large role in bringing in overnight guests. Mount Vernon alone sees more than 1 million visitors per year, he said.
“There’s a considerable amount of more traffic and people traveling Route 1,” he said.
More Hotels Coming
Fontana said the Route 1 hotel market is not out of line with consumer demand.
“These hotel companies do their research before coming in,” Fontana said. “Some people may think the market is oversaturated, but they do their due diligence. …There is demand for more hotels.”
Greenbelt, Md.-based Baywood Hotels has expressed interest in building an extended-stay, 92-room hotel on Route 1 in Mount Vernon. The company has met with Fairfax County's Office of Community Revitalization and Reinvestment to discuss the transportation and environmental impacts, and the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., or SFDC, has been working with Baywood Hotels over the past year.
Candlewood Suites is currently under construction in the Woodlawn area, next to the Hampton Inn. Construction is slated to be finished in April 2012.
Fontana said BRAC will mean more hotels in the Fort Belvoir area of Route 1. Fort Belvoir is gaining an additional 5,500 employees and will see construction of nearly 6.3 million square feet of additional building space and 7 million square feet of parking space.
“At the southern end in particular, you really have direct access to the post there, and also a little bit of the tourism market as well,” Fontana said. “You’re serving professionals who are coming in to do work with the Department of Defense and family coming in to see some of their family that may be stationed at Fort Belvoir. … So I think at the southern end, we’ll see more of the hospitality market coming in.”
Healthy Occupancy Rates
Several new hotels along the corridor have opened their doors in recent years. At SpringHill Suites Alexandria, which opened in 2010, general manager Rick Lutchman said the hotel’s average occupancy to date for 2011 is 70 percent. The Red Roof Inn Alexandria has seen that same rate for the year, said David Smith, general manager.
Amanda Sellman, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Alexandria/Fort Belvoir, said that hotel’s occupancy rate to date this year has been 83 percent. Representatives from Days Inn Alexandria South and Hampton Inn & Suites Alexandria Old Town Area South did not immediately respond to Patch inquires about occupancy rates.
The corridor’s north end, which offers easy access to the Capital Beltway, also includes multiple smaller motels, including Budget Host Travelers Motel, Relax Inn, Brookside Motel and Cedar Lodge Motel.
The corridor’s south end includes the Quality Inn & Suites of Fort Belvoir, which did not immediately return a phone call inquiring about occupancy rates, and Best Western Mount Vernon, where General Manager Kathie Vance declined to release occupancy rate figures.
Tamara Wichelns, sales director for Hampton Inn & Suites Mount Vernon/Belvoir/Alexandria South Area, said that hotel’s occupancy rate is more than 70 percent to date for 2011, up 10 percent from last year. Wichelns was among those who credited expansion at Fort Belvoir, and, to a lesser extent, tourism at Mount Vernon, in boosting the number of overnight travelers coming into the area.
“Those are the two main drivers for this particular area,” she said. “There’s so many outlets on that post. There’s not just soldiers coming in and out. There’s a lot of business coming in and out.”