W.Va. officials getting warmer on building tourism

An editorial from The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Tourism has been one of the major themes of discussion this week in southern West Virginia.

And, despite what you might be thinking, it wasn’t caused by overnight lows of 10 degrees making us wish we were somewhere warmer.

Talk of tourism was less about vacations and more about broadening our economic base here in southern West Virginia. The issue was the dominant theme at a SCORE meeting Tuesday night in Oak Hill that was described as “packed” by local residents wanting to share their ideas on economic development.

It was the second public meeting of the Southern Coalfields Organizing and Revitalizing the Economy group formed by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.

What struck us about the meeting was that those who spoke took a hard, real-world approach to tourism and how to use marketing to improve our efforts. And part of that is an allocation or reallocation of funds. In West Virginia, the Commerce Department’s tourism division has a budget of $3 million annually.

Contrast that, said Frank Jorgenson, president of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, with the “Pure Michigan” campaign up north. At the time the marketing campaign was launched, Michigan ranked near the bottom in tourism destinations. But after allocating $5 million in funding for a national advertising campaign, “Pure Michigan” moved the state near the top of tourism destinations.

For every dollar Michigan spent, it received $7 tourist dollars in return, he said.

That’s a good investment, by anybody’s standards.

The consensus in Oak Hill was that we aren’t lacking in attractions, which range from whitewater rafting to skiing and snowboarding to shopping at Tamarack.

What we’re missing is a better marketing plan…

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