Mountain State residents know West Virginia has great natural beauty, unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities and unique historical and cultural stories to tell.
All of that spells “tourism” — if the state can get the message out. Compared to many of our neighboring states, West Virginia’s tourism industry is relatively small. The U.S. Travel Association estimated the economic impact in 2014 at $2.9 billion, but in Kentucky it’s $8.3 billion and Virginia $22 billion.
But the state has so many resources to build on and half of the U.S. population within 500 miles of the state. With energetic marketing, there is so much room to grow.
That is why it is so encouraging to see the state’s tourism office gaining regional and nation attention for its work to promote the state. Last month, Wild, Wonderful West Virginia was named 2015 State Tourism Office of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Even better, the group’s annual convention was held in Charleston, attracting tourism officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Tourism commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin noted that her office has developed new initiatives and industry collaborations to attract more visitors and will be working hard to keep the momentum to showcase “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia to the world.”
In recent years, the state has added a PGA golf tournament, the Boy Scouts world class conference and recreation complex and many other attractions, as well as new vacation-home developments. There has never been a better time to turn up the heat on letting America know what we have to offer.
Reprinted from the The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va.