Laura Dean Bennett
Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is launching a new hospitality inspired initiative called, “Mountain Culture.”
For the past eight years, CVB Executive Director, Cara Rose has promoted the bureau’s “West Virginia Welcome” campaign and provided training for businesses and organizations involved in the tourism industry.
“Although Pocahontas County is already the county that is most invested in hospitality training in the state, we’re always looking for ways to enhance our training,” Rose said.
“Surveys of our visitors tell us that the number one reason people come to Pocahontas County is our scenic beauty.
“And the reason they come back is because of the people they meet while they are here.
“So, our people are our most valuable resource.”
Without the people who meet, greet, assist and interact with our visitors, Rose said the county’s tourism “product” would be of much less value.
And what makes our people so friendly and inviting?
“It’s our culture,” Rose said.
It’s our nature to be warm and friendly with visitors.
“The ‘Mountain Culture’ campaign is about reminding everyone how important we all are to the business of tourism here in Pocahontas County,” Rose explained.
And in case some of us haven’t noticed, tourism is big business here.
In fact, it’s our biggest business.
Tourism brings in a whopping $94 million a year to Pocahontas County.
The hotel/motel tax alone brought in $2 million in revenue this past year – 69 percent of which came in between November 2018 and March 2019.
Not bad for a county with Not bad for a county with no airport, no passenger trains, and definitely no four-lane highway.
“Mountain Culture is about us taking pride in who we are,” Rose said.
“There’s no other state with as much pride as West Virginia, and there’s no other county with as much warmth and hospitality to offer visitors.
“We want to encourage everyone to embrace who we are – especially anyone who comes into contact with visitors.
“Visitors to Pocahontas County should come away with an appreciation of how genuine we are.
“After all, it’s no secret that we treat people well when they come to our homes.
“We’re known for stopping to help people, welcoming strangers and showing genuine concern for the wellbeing of those around us,” Rose said, smiling.
“It’s just who we are.”
In developing this new hospitality training program, the CVB met with a 10-member citizen advisory committee which drafted a set of principles for the campaign.
The committee included, among many others, Mike Holstine, Linda Simmons, Doug Arbogast and Coby Brown.
“We tried to come up with what we felt is particular to Pocahontas County,” Holstine said.
“We spit-balled ideas and landed on the qualities that make us unique – our culture of friendliness and willingness to help people.
“I felt it was important to have a foundational statement of who we are.
“So I wrote:
“The rugged nature of our existence brings out the bold nature of our people, to be genuine, strong, inviting, helpful and attentive to the needs of our neighbors, friends and visitors alike.”
“The ‘Mountain Culture’ campaign is a way to unite all the businesses in the county and standardize our responsibilities to our visitors and show them who we are,” Holstine added.
Tammy Shoemaker, CVB Information Specialist, said that the guests who come to the county are the reason the Convention and Visitors Bureau is here.
“Our guests are our number one priority,” Shoemaker stated.
She believes that the new campaign will be well received by those in the hospitality business, as well as everyone in the county “because it speaks to our values, and the pride we have in ourselves and the county.”
“Mountain Culture describes who we are,” Shoemaker said.
In the coming weeks, Rose will be meeting with the staff of the Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitors Centers and the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce to introduce the “Mountain Culture” campaign.
“We hope to bring our presentation to about a hundred local businesses in the next six months-to-a year,” Rose explained.
“The presentation takes fifteen-to-twenty minutes, and we will have free signs for each workplace to reinforce their commitment to the initiative.
“We know how very important our employees and our citizens are to the Pocahontas County guest experience, and we hope that everyone will embrace the Mountain Culture campaign and put up the signage.”
“You know,” Rose added, “the Gaelic word Failte means welcome, and the ancient meaning of Failte was joy.”
“Showing our visitors that we’re truly pleased to have them – that their presence gives us joy will make their experience here in Pocahontas County special and will make them want to come back.”