LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — Before the coronavirus pandemic, Visit Loudoun CEO Beth Erickson says Loudoun County was the third-highest tourism revenue generator in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “As soon as that began to slow and as soon as we started to see businesses really suffering that’s when we decided to step forward,” Erickson said.
With the help of the Community Foundation, Visit Loudoun is making sure its tourism industry can survive the recession by pumping individual donations into its Tourism and Hospitality Relief Fund.
Tony Stafford, owner of Ford’s Fish Shack, was one of the business owners who inspired Erickson to start the fund. Stafford is feeding his furloughed employees a free meal every day and has extended their health insurance.
“We went from our 10-year anniversary this year — building up a multi-unit restaurant business — to taking it down to doing about 20 percent of what we’d normally do in sales revenue,” Stafford said. “It was a hard decision to have to make to lay off 142 employees that have been with us, some of them 10 years, but it’s a business decision that we had to make — it was a very hard decision — and hopefully we can welcome them back in the next few weeks once we get through this terrible pandemic.”
Stafford says the relief fund will help support his employees’ paychecks.
The Visit Loudoun Foundation has raised over $25,000 so far and has started its second wave of collecting donations. Erickson says tourism will be one of the first industries in the county that will go back to normal once the pandemic is over. “When you start to see people out in the community, spending money at our restaurants, going to our breweries, wineries; staying at our hotels — you’re going to see a healthy community.”