Hotel rooms have suddenly become difficult to come by in Fairfax County ahead of Inauguration Day on Wednesday.
That is a welcome problem for the lodging sector of the hospitality industry, which has been in a downward spiral since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a slew of travel restrictions and stay-at-home health guidance.
But this inauguration will be unlike any other in recent political history. The general public’s ability to attend President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s Oath of Office ceremony has been sharply curtailed due to the pandemic, but hotels are hosting another large group of guests: the National Guard.
Up to 21,000 members of the National Guard have been authorized to come to D.C. and secure the city ahead of potential attacks, after Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6. Fairfax County hotels are reportedly housing some of the 15,000 guard members already in the D.C. metropolitan area.
“We are indeed hearing anecdotally from hoteliers that there has been an uptick in reservations compared with the past 11 months, but we are unable to ascertain whether those reservations are directly related to the inauguration and/or the National Guard or people who are visiting for leisure or business travel,” Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar said in a statement.
The pandemic and ensuing shutdowns devastated the hospitality industry across the U.S. In Virginia, COVID-19 has resulted in the loss of about 100,000 jobs, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
In November, the AHLA found that 71% of its member hotels said “they won’t make it another six months without further federal assistance given current and projected travel demand.” 47% of respondents said they would be forced to close hotels.
But the employees who remain taking the sudden surge of guests in stride, Biggar explains.
“What we do know is that our hotels have been working tirelessly, even with staff shortages and for long hours, to ensure that our guests are treated with the utmost hospitality,” he said.
Photo courtesy Hilton McLean Tysons Corner
Updated at 1:10 p.m. on 1/19/2021 — Fairfax Connector announced today that the changes to its bus service for tomorrow’s inauguration have now been extended through Thursday (Jan. 21).
Fairfax Connector Routes 697 (Stringfellow Road Park and Ride – Downton D.C.) and 699 (Fairfax County Government Center – Foggy Bottom) will continue to operate as free shuttles to the Vienna Metrorail station through Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, adding an additional day to the service detour. Passengers should take the Metrorail Orange Line to complete their trip into Washington, D.C. Fairfax Connector staff will continue to monitor road closures and make a determination about Friday as the week goes on.
Earlier: With only a week left until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Fairfax Connector announced that two bus routes will stop operating today (Wednesday) through Jan. 20 due to planned road closures in Washington, D.C.
Route 699, which normally travels between the Fairfax County Government Center and downtown D.C., will instead serve as a free shuttle to transport riders from the government center park and ride to the south entrance of the Vienna Metro station.
“The shuttles will leave the government center at the time on the schedule,” Fairfax Connector said in a tweet. “The shuttles will leave Vienna about 45 mins after their DC departure time with the goal of getting riders back to the P&R lot near their regularly scheduled arrival time.”
Fairfax Connector suggests Routes 631, 632, and 634 as travel alternatives for passengers on Route 697, which goes from the Stringfellow Road Park and Ride in Centreville to D Street SW in D.C. Routes 631, 632, and 634 all stop at the Stringfellow Park and Ride and the Vienna Metro station.
⚠️ Due to road closures for Inauguration, Route 697 will not operate into DC starting immediately through Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Passengers should use shuttle between Stringfellow P&R and Vienna Metro South. Use alternative Routes 631, 632, & 634. Thanks for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 13, 2021
⚠️ Due to road closures, Route 699 will not operate into DC starting immediately through Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Route 699 will shuttle passengers (free of charge) between Government Center Park & Ride and Vienna Metro South. Thanks for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 13, 2021
Fears that the violence that embroiled the U.S. Capitol last week could return during the lead-up to Inauguration Day have put the D.C. region on edge, prompting thousands of National Guard troops and federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to mobilize for the National Special Security Event.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay joined other local and state public officials in warning community members against traveling to downtown D.C. on the day of the inauguration and the days preceding it.
“Sadly, the terror that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was not a contained or isolated incident, and there is continued concern that similar violence is an ongoing threat to Americans and our democracy,” McKay said in a statement today.
The chairman says that the Fairfax County Police Department has been in contact with D.C. police about “the evolving situation” and has increased its presence in “key areas” of the county.
McKay advises residents to stay home if possible, avoid downtown D.C., and report any suspicious activity to police at 9-1-1 or the FCPD’s non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.
“Fairfax County will do all we can to help our partners in the region ensure a peaceful and safe transition of power on January 20, 2021 because that is the will of Fairfax County residents and the majority of Americans across the country,” McKay said.
Photo via Fairfax Connector/Facebook