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A vibrant Dulles Airport is critical for tourism, Loudoun officials say

Stone Tower Winery owner Mike Huber shows U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) around an events room at his new facility. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko
You can’t talk about tourism without talking about the Dulles International Airport.

That was the big takeaway following a discussion on travel and tourism Thursday at Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg. On hand for the roundtable chat -- hosted by Visit Loudoun and the U.S. Travel Association -- were several elected officials, including Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R), tourism advocates and representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages the Dulles airport.

After a tour of Stone Tower’s sprawling new facility, participants sat down to hit on key aspects of travel and tourism.

“Since we are home to the Dulles International Airport, I am looking at finding workable solutions to protect such a valuable asset for our state,” Comstock said. “Every year, tourism ranks among one of the top industries in Virginia -- a trend that has continued this year. Loudoun County includes a perfect snapshot of the types of destinations available to leisure as well as business travelers in the commonwealth.”

In 2014, tourism generated more than $1.5 billion in revenue for the county and $22 billion for the state, according to county officials.

But those welcome economic numbers are threatened with Dulles’ lackluster performance in recent years. The airport’s passenger totals have dipped over the past five years, while management is grappling with billions in annual debt.

Local officials engage in a talk on travel and tourism at Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg Thursday. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko

Comstock and her colleagues in Congress will take up the Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill after the August recess. Regional lawmakers say they’re determined to pass a reauthorization that doesn’t expand exceptions to the perimeter rule, which prohibits direct flights from more than 1,250 miles out from arriving at Reagan.

“Our top priority is no more slots, and we’re pleased that the House chairman [Rep. Bill Schuster] has committed to that,” Comstock said. “We’ve got to stop some of the damage that’s been done by slot expansion.”

Beth Erickson, the president of Visit Loudoun, the county’s tourism marketing arm, agreed the perimeter rule is arguably the biggest legislative issue for her organization and the region's tourism growth.

“I think a key step of what occurred today was [Comstock] coming out to see the tourism product in Loudoun County, to understand how much is here right within the vicinity of Dulles Airport, and I think she did a fantastic job of connecting Dulles Airport [to tourism],” Erickson said.

A second critical piece of legislation for the local economy and tourism is the transportation funding bill, Comstock said. The first-term representative hopes to see Congress approve a six-year bill early in the next administration, rather a two- or three-year fix.

In July, the House and Senate agreed to a short-term bill that funds the highway trust fund only through November. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they want a longer-term highway bill that provides more certainty for the economy, but such a compromise has proved elusive in recent years.

Related coverage:

-"Jet lagged at Dulles" -- April 22
-"At Belfort Furniture and Stone Tower Winery, the Hubers are all in" -- Dec. 29, 2014


Dulles airport is the biggest airport in the region, has the best transit infrastructure to reach the airport, and the added cost of flying out of Dulles is peanuts compared to the time and money wasted trying to drive in traffic to BWI or DCA.

A few lunatics will opt for sitting in traffic to save a few dollars, but everybody else will be in and out of Dulles before that person reaches I-95.

Dulles is key to this area’s economic growth.

As someone who just chose to fly out of BWI instead of Dulles (choosing to drive 1.5 hours each way instead of 20 minutes, let me put the issue into perspective:

1) The flight from BWI was non-stop, due to the # of flights Southwest has at that airport.

2) The non-stop flight was significantly cheaper, most likely due to competition at BWI airport.

3) I hated, I MEAN *HATED*, the drive to and from BWI on the beltway/95. 

It wouldn’t take much to convince me to fly out of IAD, but pricing/options are where the problem is.  Make it easier for airlines to come in and do business at IAD. Problem solved.  It’s a bigger airport with lots of land, longer runways.  Where is the problem??

Dear Congresswoman Comstock,
Yes - Stone Tower Winery is a beautiful place and tourism is important but did you ever think to ask Congress to transfer the ownership of the parking lots around Dulles Airport back under the control of Loudoun County so we can collect property taxes and lease revenues from MWAA? Are the parking lots REALLY germaine to national security justifying being owned by the federal government which incidentally only collects $3 Million per year from MWAA to lease the entire airport under a 50 year lease? Did you know much of the land was taken from freed slave landowners under eminent domain without even a hearing? How about really showing some local interest and have some of that land returned under the control of Loudoun instead of acting like Neville Chamberlin with MWAA as if they serve the county more than themselves.
R. Ohneiser Esq.
Candidate for Loudoun Commonwealth Attorney

All this money we get from tourism but have taxes gone down? No, spending goes up, just think how good the commute would be without the temps. Restrict the building of business at Dulles for airline business only. No tax free zone for private business.

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