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Reston has a unique opportunity to position itself as the heart of a vibrant Northern Virginia region and become the number one destination for visitors outside our region. However, the work required to make that happen has to occur now. The coming of Metro to Reston has sparked some significant dialogues in the community about land development, traffic and amenities. Reston as a destination location is one more critical dialogue that, in my opinion, needs to advance to the forefront now.

Reston, because of its initial vision and planning, is already a community wonderfully set up to welcome visitors. Our lakes, trails, public amenities and natural beauty make this a visually stimulating place to visit. Shopping and dining opportunities are some of the best in the region and already draw many visitors from outside our population. Our history as one of the first planned communities in the country adds a level of provenance to all that we do.

Cultural tourism will be the cornerstone of any destination marketing effort. The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival is one of the top-rated events of its kind in the country and has the potential to continue to grow in prominence. Our Oktoberfest Reston and Taste of Reston, produced by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and the Multicultural Festival, produced by the Reston Community Center, draw tens of thousands of people into our community.

We are surrounded by a wealth of public art in our backyard thanks in part to the vision of our founder, Robert E. Simon Jr. and the efforts of our Initiative for Public Art — Reston. We have a budding regional event in the Washington West Film Festival, performances at CenterStage that rival those at Washington D.C.’s largest institutions, galleries showing some of the region’s best art and a multitude of other cultural assets that people outside our community need to see.

Reston has the opportunity to market these assets to the region and beyond and capitalize on the opportunity Metro’s Silver Line will bring. The Fairfax County Convention and Visitors Corporation (Visit Fairfax) states that total tourism spending in Fairfax County for 2010 reached over $2.4 billion. Within the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, Fairfax County is the No.2 contributor of expenditures to Virginia's tourism industry. Visitors to Fairfax County directly supported almost 30,000 local jobs.

Our community will benefit from seeing more of those numbers invested here. Visitor dollars will support local merchants, restaurants and businesses of all types, increase participation in our events, grow fundraising opportunities for our nonprofits and further raise the profile of our community for businesses looking for a new home.

It is critical the community organize now and collectively learn and develop best practices of how to market ourselves. Strategies need to be written and plans ready to be implemented well before the second Reston rail stop arrives at Reston Town Center. Like many major projects in Reston, this effort will require a collective of passionate citizens and strong organizations to work collaboratively to develop these plans and strategies.

This dialogue has started and it needs to develop into a real working group. Leaders like the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Reston Community Center, Reston Association, Reston Town Center Association, Lake Anne Association, Visit Fairfax, Virginia Tourism Corporation all need to gather around the table to position Reston as Northern Virginia’s No.1 destination for the arts, businesses and festivals.

Reston is currently known as a place where people live, work, play and serve. Together, we can add “visit” to that list.

Since Metro is coming to Reston shouldn’t we take full advantage of the opportunity it presents?

Damian Sinclair is the executive director for the Greater Reston Arts Center located in Reston.