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Greenbrier County tourist season was ‘staggering’

LEWISBURG, W.Va. — Even casual observers probably realize that Greenbrier County just witnessed what was most likely the single most event-filled summer tourist season in its history. That’s no small statement in light of tourism’s longstanding place atop the county’s roster of industries.

Within a 48-day span this summer, the county hosted no fewer than six major tourism events — the inaugural Lewisburg Music Festival at Carnegie Hall, the Lewisburg Literary Festival, the week-long Greenbrier Classic PGA tournament and Alderson 4th of July celebration, the nine-day State Fair of West Virginia and an unprecedented three-week training camp for the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints at The Greenbrier.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” said Kara Dense, executive director of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

“With all the activities at The Greenbrier this summer — the golf tournament and bringing in the Saints — and then the other big attractions, like the Literary Festival and the State Fair — for all of them to be so successful is just staggering,” Dense said.

The largest unknown heading into this summer’s tourism season had to be the Saints. Many in the local community were skeptical about how many fans of a Louisiana-based team would truly follow the squad to a training camp located in the hills of West Virginia.

As it turned out, the skepticism was unfounded.

“Fans that were here for the Saints camp filled rooms in Lewisburg — midweek rooms that wouldn’t necessarily have been filled otherwise,” Dense said. “From a CVB standpoint, it’s all about getting heads in beds. Once they rent lodging, they’ll be out and about, shopping, eating, filling their gas tanks.”

She said she has heard the same story from area merchants and restaurateurs: “The Saints camp was truly a success from an economic standpoint.”

Dense emphasized that the media attention the training camp brought to White Sulphur Springs should not be overlooked in analyzing the impact of this new event…

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