A new digital initiative in Prince William County, Virginia, aims to connect D.C.-area shoppers with shops, restaurants and hotels across the county.
The “Passport to Prince William” program provides customers with discounts and other offers, with the goal of supporting businesses in the Northern Virginia county.
Ann Marie Maher, the director of the county’s office of tourism, said the project was in the works before the pandemic, but the economic consequences associated with the coronavirus have made the county’s efforts that much more significant.
“Why this is so important is we want to stay safe, but we also want to keep our businesses open,” Maher told WTOP. “And the only way to do that is to increase ‘shop local’ appeal, because the travelers are not coming in as they were.”
The passport program features 90 businesses ranging from restaurants, breweries and stores, Maher said. They’re divided by neighborhood on the program’s website, and deals range from monetary discounts to free dishes or gift items.
Currently, 200 customers are enrolled to receive the benefits. It’s free to sign up, and the deals are available to anyone who joins, not just Prince William County residents, Maher said.
Rather than downloading an app, offers are sent using text messages and email addresses and can be redeemed on mobile devices.
“The deals are really good,” Maher said. “If you go [on the passport], you get to explore some neat new places that maybe you’ve never tried before out here in Prince William County.”
And to ensure customer safety during the pandemic, Maher said many businesses across the county have taken the Prince William pledge, promising to adopt Virginia and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health guidelines for cleaning, mask wearing and social distancing.
Maher said some businesses have said the project has helped boost revenue. Several of the 12 county businesses that have opened during the pandemic are also participating.
“The feedback we’re getting has been phenomenal,” Maher said. “The county’s really stepped up to help support these businesses and keep them afloat. And we’re doing everything we possibly can.”
The passport program will continue to evolve to include new businesses, with the initial rollout just the first phase, Maher said, adding she sees the opportunity to expand the program “in different niche markets.”
For more information about the program or for detailed instructions on how to enroll, visit the Passport to Prince William’s website.