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Post-water crisis, W.Va. ups tourism ad spending

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A $1.2 million cash infusion announced Thursday will more than double the Division of Tourism’s spring advertising campaign budget, in hopes of offsetting negative publicity from the Jan. 9 chemical leak in the Elk River.

“We acknowledge we need to be pro-active in looking toward our image and our ability to market ourselves, especially in this region of the country,” Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said in announcing the additional funding.

“This is a necessary effort on our part. It is certainly something that has to be a priority,” Burdette told the state Tourism Commission Thursday.

Previously, the division had a budget of only $1 million for its spring marketing campaign, which begins Monday. Tom Crooks of the Stonewall Group said the limited effort would consist primarily of cable TV ads running mainly in Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh.

On Thursday, Crooks said the additional funding will allow the ad campaign to expand into Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, and to include radio ads in Greensboro, N.C.; Lexington, Ky., and Richmond and Roanoke, Va., among other markets.

It also will allow ads to run more frequently in each market.

“The more times people hear and see our message, the more they’re inclined to consider West Virginia as a destination,” he said.

Crooks also unveiled the results of a consumer survey on the impact of the nine-county water contamination incident, conducted by Repass and Partners in 11 key markets in West Virginia, surrounding states, and North Carolina.

Crooks said 52 percent of those surveyed had a high level of awareness regarding the water incident, and 11 percent said it would make them less likely to vacation in West Virginia.

“That’s alarming to us,” he said…

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