By September 25, 2017 Read More →

Fall an important season for WV tourism

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “West Virginia is the perfect place to fall in love with fall,” says state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby.

Chelsea Ruby,
Commissioner of the Division of Tourism

According to tourism officials, 15.9 million people a year stay overnight in West Virginia, contributing $4.5 billion to the state’s economy. Ruby said visitors to the state contribute $527 million in local taxes.

And many of those visitors come during the fall, Ruby said.

“Its a huge number,” she said. “Traditionally, fall has been one of our strongest seasons.”

Ruby said West Virginia’s mountains and rolling hills provide some of the best locations in the entire country for fall foliage viewing. Tourism officials are trying to capitalize on the state’s reputation for colorful foliage by pushing West Virginia as a destination for leaf-viewing.

Ruby said tourism officials are focusing their fall marketing efforts on promoting road trips, encouraging visitors to see sites all over the state and stay overnight and trying to talk visitors into staying a little longer, helping local economies.

Tourism officials have set up a web page, https://gotowv.com/fall, where visitors can get information on trip itineraries, get suggestions on where to go and see what sorts of things there are to do in the Mountain State in the fall months.

“What’s not to love about fall in West Virginia?” the web page asks. “Cool, crisp mountain air sweeps through the valleys, fresh harvest flavors take over our menus, leaf peepers flock to the hills for vibrant fall color, all topped with endless fall festivals and adventures! Plan a trip filled with autumn bliss in the Mountain State – our fall pocket guide includes all the best leaves, road trips, views and events.”

The blurb is accompanied by a link visitors can use to sign up for a pocket guide. Further down the page are suggestions on hiking and other activities available in the fall, an invitation for visitors to share fall foliage photography and links to seven fall-specific events in the state.

The site features a link to information on where to go to get the best fall foliage photos, puts in a plug for the state’s whitewater rafting industry – which is open through October – lists some spooky or weird places to visit as the weather turns cooler and outlines some scenic drives, rides and hikes.

Events featured are Point Pleasant’s annual Mothman Festival, Tucker County’s Leaf Peepers Festival and Pocahontas County’s Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Road Kill Cook-off in September and Charleston’s FestivALL Fall, Lewisburg’s Taste of Our Towns and Fayetteville’s annual Bridge Day celebration in October.

Ruby had big plans for expanding the promotion of West Virginia tourism when she was appointed tourism commissioner by Gov. Jim Justice. State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher had originally asked for more than $100 million in budget increases, with some of it earmarked for tourism.

At the time, Thrasher said it was important to promote the state’s resources and emphasize tourism to help “jump-start” West Virginia’s economy.

Ruby had asked for a $5.6 million budget increase for tourism promotion. As the state Legislature wrangled into June over a state budget, the tourism department ended up with a $5 million cut.

Tourism Public Relations Director Emily Amos said fall tourism promotion would have been “exponentially greater” had the department gotten the budget increase. “We’re working very hard to maximize every dollar and multiple our effectiveness through exciting new social and earned media campaigns,” Amos said.

The state of Michigan spends more than $30 million a year promoting tourism.

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