Loudoun County’s $4 Billion Tourism Industry Underscores Need For Federal Perimeter Rule Modernization To Meet Demand, Lower Prices

While Tourism & Populations Booms In The Fastest-Growing County In The Commonwealth, The Federal Perimeter Rule Is Still Stuck In The 1960s

Washington, D.C. – The Capital Access Alliance (CAA), a coalition of transportation and business leaders from Virginia and around the country seeking to make air travel to and from Washington, D.C. more accessible and affordable, released a statement following newly released data from Virginia Tourism which revealed tourism revenue in Loudoun County, Virginia surpassed $4 billion in 2022 – up 32 percent from the previous year.

This also comes as the population of Loudoun County and neighboring areas in Northern Virginia has exploded over the last 20 years. A primary reason Congress implemented the federal perimeter rule regulation in 1966 was because just 35,000 people lived in Loudoun when Dulles International Airport (IAD) was opened, and Congress felt it was needed to protect the airport.  Yet today, Loudoun is home to more than 453,000 residents, while neighboring Fairfax County’s population has surpassed more than one million residents and Prince William County is home to more than 486,000 residents. At the same time, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is still the only airport in the country subject to a federal perimeter rule that limits access and choices for air travelers. 

In a report this week from Loudoun Now, IAD was noted as a “major contributor” to the local economy. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Chryssa Westerlund noted the impact of added international routes, saying, “Dulles has added more international flights since 2019 than any other airport in the U.S., making it America’s fastest growing international gateway.”

“This new data further reinforces why the 1960s-era federal perimeter rule needs to be updated to meet the demands of air travel to and from the national capital region in 2023,” said CAA spokesman and Northern Virginia resident Brian Walsh. “Northern Virginia’s population has more than tripled in the last 50 years, and Loudoun County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Virginia over the past 10 years. The rapid increase in air travel demand in the national capital region has never been more apparent, and both Northern Virginia airports have a growing customer base to serve.”

“Residents and tourists – whether they choose Dulles or DCA for their travel – deserve affordable flights. Yet in 2023, DCA is still subject to a nearly 60-year protectionist measure that is stifling competition and keeping ticket prices high. It’s why an average ticket to and from Dulles costs a nation-high of nearly $500. Congress has the opportunity to change this before the end of the year by voting to add more flights at DCA. Boosting competition in the Washington, D.C. air travel market will help reduce expensive airfare and help consumers travel to and from the national capital region more affordably.”

Loudoun Now also reported that the county is the largest tourism generator in the state, noting, “Tourism in 2022 supported 17,134 Loudoun jobs, up 26.6 percent, which generated $988 million in salaries and wages. It generated $136 million in local taxes as well as $72.6 million in state taxes – increases of 24.8 percent and 31.9 percent over 2021 respectively.”

study by one of the top management consulting firms in the country found that modernizing the perimeter rule and adding more flights at DCA would have a similar impact for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, including the creation of more than 1,000 jobs, generating up to $400 million in economic benefit, and adding $50 to $70 million in federal and state tax revenue. Nicole Sutton, a small business owner in the county, wrote in a letter to the editor earlier this year in the Loudoun Times-Mirror that, “Adding more long-distance flights at DCA would help lower travel costs for Loudoun businesses and families.”

June poll of more than 1,000 Virginia residents found that the majority of Virginia voters support modernizing the outdated perimeter rule, with 76 percent supporting efforts to lower ticket prices. In Northern Virginia specifically, nearly six out of 10 residents were in favor of reforming the rule. Additionally, an online survey by Arlington-based publication ARLnow showed that more than 50 percent of residents in the Arlington region support adding more DCA flights.

About CAA

CAA consists of diverse members from around the country and various industries, including transportation, general business groups, the small business sector, entrepreneurs and job creators, organizations focused on economic development and leaders in the civic and policy communities. 

Learn more about Capital Access Alliance HERE.