Tourism has been a growing sector of West Virginia’s economy for years.  It is now over $5.1 billion in sales.  Tourism generates over $707 million in annual state and local tax revenue and employs more than 46,000 workers in state.  Tourism has been the ambassador of economic development on many levels.  In the great house of West Virginia we are the front porch; we welcome and receive our guests.  We are the back deck; where we entertain and sell this great state.  After 30 years of solid growth we are now faced with increasingly aggressive competition of recreational dollars and time, compounded by focused statewide marketing and branding initiatives driving tourism dollars out of West Virginia and into neighboring states.  

Many of these challenges can only be overcome by research driven strategic marketing. We see our primary competition (other states in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southeast United States) recognizing the value of tourism and now responding.  Most would agree that the “Pure Michigan” campaign, “The Virginia is for Lovers” campaign and the “Discover Ohio” campaign have much more reach, even in West Virginia, than “Wild and Wonderful”.  West Virginia is getting beaten at its own game.    One fact remains; in every study ever done it reveals that tourism has a huge return on investment in tax dollars when marketing our state as a vacation destination.

Studies also verify that because West Virginia does not have large metropolitan centers or large national attractions, such as the Smokey Mountains, we need to sing our song louder.  We need a robust Marketing Plan to attract visitors to West Virginia.  These visitors now go to other states near us since those states have a more robust Marketing Plan than dues West Virginia.  One tool that has been very effective and needs enhancement by our industry, legislative representatives and the administration is the MAPP program.  Due to the declining revenue at the tracks and reallocation of funds over the years, the MAPP fund has gone from over $20 million a year to now under $3 million a year.  All of this money goes to matching funds for marketing tourism.  The West Virginia Division of Tourism has also had a significant reduction in annual Marketing Dollars.

We all know that West Virginia is America’s best kept secret.  We simply need to sell this more aggressively and continue to invest in upgrading our properties and products to match a rapidly changing world.  This decline in marketing dollars needs attention and collaboration between the state and the tourism industry before each lose more in dollars, jobs and image.

  • The WVHTA supports legislative action to return the vital Matching Advertising Partnership Program (MAPP) funding to the level of several years ago when the growth of tourism was instrumental in growing revenue and jobs in West Virginia. We also believe that funding for the Courtesy Patrol should not come out of our tourism grant funding (MAPP). Those MAPP funds should be used for the originally intended purpose of growing our tourism industry and promoting our goals.
  • The Division of Tourism needs dollars for Direct Marketing to promote tourism in West Virginia.  Longwoods and other studies show that the impact of a state tourism marketing program is very effect with significant payback.
  • Adequate air service is not just a matter of convenience, it’s an economic necessity.  To maintain a competitive level of air service for West Virginia, WVHTA supports the Legislature looking into ways to attract and maintain air service through incentives such as revenue guarantees, marketing packages or waivers of fees and charges.
  • WVHTA supports a “no new taxes” policy on the tourism industry unless those taxes are for Direct Tourism Marketing controlled by either The Division of Tourism or the Tourism Commission.  WVHTA supports efforts to collect and distribute the tax in accordance with statutory requirements and with maximum benefit to the tourism industry. 
  • WVHTA supports the expansion of all highway corridors for tourism economic development and a continued statewide policy for highway safety and protection of the integrity of state roads and bridges. Additionally, WVHTA supports the Governor’s considerations of the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highway’s recommendations, which include innovative and creative financing for highways, efficiencies within the WV Department of Highways and sufficient revenues to provide for West Virginia’s highway system.
  • As in the past WVHTA supports allowing local option elections on new gaming issues in the appropriate racetrack properties to promote existing jobs and economic revenue. These potential gaming options may lead to new revenue for the Matching Advertising Partnership Program (MAPP). Such legislation will be critical for our racetrack resorts to remain competitive with the gaming facilities in neighboring states.
  • WVHTA acknowledges the extreme industry labor shortage, supports hospitality career educational training and workforce development and encourages portability of employee training programs. WVHTA desires to provide a true public private partnership by working directly with the WVHEAT program and our national partners NRAEF and AHLAEF to provide dollars, mentors and volunteers to better prepare and equip that workforce for the tourism industry.
  • WVHTA supports expanded highway tourism signage in accordance with the guidelines established by the WV Department of Transportation including signage made available from the private sector as an important marketing tool for businesses involved in the tourism industry.  

Join WVHTA

WVHTA’s members represent many of the attractions, restaurants, hotels, suppliers, service providers and employers that contribute $3.9 billion dollars to West Virginia’s economy annually.  WVHTA represents these members to state government and is their connection to similar organizations nationwide. Through the association’s work, members come together to maintain a strong, united voice dedicated to promoting and supporting hospitality and travel in West Virginia

Become a member today!

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West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association | PO BOX 2391 | Charleston, WV 25328 | 304-342-6511 | website by brickswithoutstraw