CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West
Virginia, in the third year of its Wild and Wonderful branding
campaign, is experiencing tourism growth as visitors stay longer
and spend more.
This fiscal year, which began July 1, the state's division of
tourism is spending $3 million on advertising in consumer magazines
and cable television. The campaign features the John Denver song,
"Take Me Home, Country Roads."
In addition, the state's co-op fund program is providing the
industry with $12 million this calendar year for promotions on a
matching funds basis, more than double last year's amount (see sidebar below).
"We're a baby [in tourism]. Actually, really we're just about to
deliver. We have a long way to go, but all trends are positive,"
said Alisa Bailey, state tourism director.
She added, "We're positioning ourselves as a premier outdoor
destination. We have some of the world's best white-water rafting;
we have mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and skiing.
"We also have sightseeing, historic towns and the old American
main streets. It's a restful, relaxing destination."
Tourism has developed to the extent that Gov. Cecil Underwood
declared at the state's annual governor's tourism conference in
September that the state's beauty and natural assets were no longer
He announced that tourists spent more than $2.8 billion last
year, an increase of 5.7% compared with 1998, and he credited the
co-op funding program as a significant factor driving the
Last year, 4.2 million visitors stopped at the state's eight
West Virginia's main target markets are the mid-Atlantic states
and the Midwest. And although international visitor numbers are
small, the state also is targeting this segment.
It appointed a U.K. representative last year; has a rep covering
Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and markets itself in Japan,
where it has an economic development office, through Travel
"We have to work smart to capture our market share and look to
revenue, not volume, [because] international visitors spend more
[than U.S. visitors]," Bailey said.
When planning the television campaign, tourism officials found
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" was recognized by international
visitors at the welcome centers. "Even the Japanese, who didn't
understand it, recognized the word 'heaven,' " she said.
Landlocked West Virginia gets 60% of its U.S. visitors from six
states: Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, which share
borders with it, and the Carolinas.
Nicknamed the Mountain State, it has fewer than 2 million
people; its biggest city (Charleston, the capital), has only
57,000. The state has 220 properties with 21,400 rooms.
Almost 80% of its land is covered by forests; it has 37 state
parks, plus state forests and wildlife-management areas.
Eight of the parks have lodges, most with meeting facilities,
and even many state forests have cabins.
Said Bailey, "We're fortunate we have the best state parks,
where people can stay overnight. Kentucky is similar. It has a
great park system."
West Virginia has two national byways, eight state byways, and
seven state backways routes.
The state offers a new brochure with maps listing them.
Earlier this year, the tourism division introduced its first
African-American heritage brochure, printed a new trails-map
brochure, and last year, a Civil War heritage brochure.
Also this year, a private sector firm published a meeting
planner guide, which is available through the tourism division.
The state maintains 800 miles of hiking and 350 miles of
mountain bike trails.
The big news here is the opening in October of the first 300
miles of motorized and nonmotorized trails of the Hatfield-McCoy
Recreation Area in Logan and Mingo counties in the south.
The area has a Web site, located at www.trailsheaven.com.
Plans are for the project, which is on private lands, to be
developed into a 2,000-mile trail network. "All the signs are
good," said Bailey.
"We're now fortunate because of our isolation," she said,
explaining that in 1945 the state only had five miles of divided
highway (coal and other major products went by rail and river, so
roads weren't needed). Today, its 1,000 miles of divided highway is
"The Eastern Seaboard became urbanized. People want to get away.
We're right in their backyard," she said.
State's plan targets
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia is planning a program that
would encourage its tourism industry to move toward the agency
The state's division of tourism, which recently joined ASTA, has
$12 million in grants for co-op promotions to award this year, up
from last year's $5.6 million.
The division's program, which aims to give the industry ideas on
how to spend the additional money for co-op funding, is scheduled
to start in January. It will center on symposiums for the industry
on how to market to travel agents.
The additional money for co-op marketing came as a surprise to
"We never knew it would grow so much," said Alisa Bailey, the
state's tourism director.
The Cooperative Tourism Promotion Fund began in 1995 and is
endowed from a percentage of revenues from a video lottery, and
from gaming at two horse racing tracks and two dog racing
She added, "We want to train the white-water rafting companies,
the car rentals firms and all the other recreation firms how to
market, how to package and how to deal with travel agents.
"Agents are looking for additional revenue, and the program will
enhance our ability to market and will open up a whole new field
for the state," she said.
The division also currently is upgrading its Web site, which
will tie together consumer data received from toll-free calls and
It also will mean that suppliers will be able to update their
information on the site themselves.
For information, call (800) CALL-WVA. The division of tourism's
Web site is located at www.callwva.com.
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