A column by Phil Kabler, statehouse reporter for The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “The damage that has been done to this community will affect us in a negative way for the rest of my life,” Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, Jan. 17 CNN interview on the impact of the Elk River chemical leak.
“There is not a hotel … in downtown Charleston that has rooms available at this point,” Samantha Carney, Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau special groups and sports sales manager, regarding the Hot Rod Power Tour stop in Charleston, June 4 Gazette interview.
Which seems consistent with the findings of the Repass and Partners survey of 1,468 adults in 11 key tourism markets for West Virginia. As you may recall, it found that 25 percent of those who were knowledgeable about the Jan. 9 water contamination incident said they would be negatively influenced about taking a trip to West Virginia, but also found that fewer than one in three people surveyed (in March) knew anything about the incident.
(As I noted back in April, the state tourism industry should be thankful the national media at the time was obsessed with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “bridge-gate,” and as usual, gave short shrift to West Virginia.)
Further confirmation that the chemical leak will have minimal impact on tourism statewide comes from Smith Travel Research.
The state Commerce Department has a contract with the Pennsylvania-based company, which tracks hotel and motel occupancy rates nationwide, for state occupancy rate data.
When I requested STR occupancy figures, Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner of tourism, advised that it is proprietary information and the state’s contract has restrictions on sharing the data.
However, she was able to share these bits of information:
Statewide, hotels and motels had a 68.1 percent occupancy rate in April, up 4.1 percent from April 2013…