CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Tourism Commission were still practically giddy Thursday, a week after the Legislature passed a bill freeing up an additional $4.7 million a year for tourism marketing and promotion.
“This was an extraordinary session,” said Commissioner Dave Arnold, a partner in whitewater outfitter Adventures on the Gorge, in Fayette County. “To have the kind of budget where you can actually compete — you can’t play the game without being on the same playing field.”
Arnold said that when word of final passage of the bill (SB581) came down about noon last Friday, company CEO David Hartvigsen, a 30-year veteran of the tourism industry, high-fived and offered beers to employees to celebrate the news.
Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin called it a substantial increase that will help tourism in all 55 counties, saying, “It’s just a wonderful, wonderful birthday present.”
The increased funding, Goodwin said, will grow the upcoming budget for state tourism advertising and marketing from $2.8 million to about $7 million.
While that’s still not in the range of Florida’s $100 million tourism budget or Michigan’s $30 million campaign, it will make West Virginia competitive with most neighboring states, and actually ahead of Maryland’s $6 million budget for tourism, she noted.