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    An analytic-driven future at Visit Loudoun

    As Patrick Kaler departs as president and CEO of Visit Loudoun, his lasting impact might be analytic-driven decision making.

    During his tenure, Visit Loudoun added a director of business strategy within the organization to conduct studies, do research and figure out how that information should dictate the future of the organization.

    Brian Jenkins, the current strategy director, recently shared some of the charts and statistical analysis that he uses to inform the organization's vision.

    One metric that informs many of the others is a report on how many hotel rooms are sold in Loudoun County on any day during the year.

    Peaks of sold rooms showed up for the summer months, which are naturally more suited for travel and vacation.

    The valleys on the graph came in the winter months, due to the holidays, when people generally stay home. A metric called "needs periods" showed that most of the winter months were below average in hotel room sales.

    By identifying which months naturally bring in fewer tourists, Visit Loudoun can concentrate on projects to reduce vacancy rates in those months.

    A lull in hotel stays at the end of the summer informed the decision to launch the Epicurience event over Labor Day.

    One of their signature events, Epicurience also showcased Loudoun's wine and culinary offerings.

    Since hotel stays taper off after the summer, the plan was to have Epicurience bring in culinary travelers to the county.

    Visit Loudoun is funded through the Transient Occupancy Taxes, which in Loudoun are largely collected from hotels in the Eastern part of the county.

    As for the need to fill more hotel rooms in the winter months, the group commissioned a study to gauge the feasibility of an indoor sports facility in the area.

    "We were thinking about 'what can we possibly do here to affect winter travel?'" said Jenkins.

    The facility could be used for any number of regional events like cheer and dance competitions, to winter sports like basketball and volleyball.

    Alternatively, Jenkins threw out the possibility that a structure like this could house graduation ceremonies.

    The business case must have been strong because, "when we put this out, we had meetings with five developers right off the bat."

    Another large project Jenkins likes talking about is breweries in Virginia.

    Current zoning requirements make it so breweries can only open in certain areas of the county.

    Pointing to the Brew Ridge Trail, a group of breweries in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson County as a prototype, Jenkins believes craft breweries can have a great economic impact on Loudoun County after zoning issues have been addressed.

    One key misconception he hopes doesn't hold back breweries in Loudoun is the idea of the typical beer drinker.

    "The craft beer industry now is creating beer connoisseurs, much like you have with wine. They're not Miller Lite and and Bud Light drinkers."

    In fact, the demographics of the typical craft beer drinker are in line with wine drinkers, according to Jenkins.

    The future of Visit Loudoun is somewhere in a chart right now, waiting to be turned into a culinary festival or a multi-million dollar sports facility.

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    Loudoun Business Journal - Summer 2014

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