At the annual Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau luncheon Wednesday, CVB executive director Cara Rose announced the 2015 Tourism Person of the Year.
The CVB established the Tourism Person of the Year award in 2014. The first recipient was Ruth Taylor, of Hillsboro.
Before announcing the 2015 recipient, Rose read from the nomination letter written by Charlotte Hamons.
“She writes, ‘he’s been in the hospitality business for over twenty years,’” Rose said. “He operates a B&B with six rooms, all with private baths and TVs. There are nine cabins located on a nearby country road and along the Greenbrier River, as well as along the Williams River area. The cabins are unique in their own right being pre-Civil War log structures converted into custom cabins giving guests a rustic, yet modern accommodation.”
The recipient, Tom Moore, is the owner and operator of Jerico B&B and Pre-Civil War Cabins. Moore put his blood, sweat and tears into creating a unique getaway for visitors to the county.
“It is only fair to mention that the conversion as been by the owner – a fine craftsman in his own right,” Rose said. “This business caters to groups and those looking for a nice and peaceful vacation. The business owner understands the importance of providing guests with information about the area and ensures that the county information is well-stocked and readily available in all the units.”
Sharing her own memories of Moore’s journey into the B&B, Rose said Moore had the right ilk to enter into the hospitality business.
“He came into my office when I was working for the CVB at that time,” she said. “He wanted to know about operating a B&B and if I thought it was a good idea. Keep in mind this was the time when we were truly seeing some transformations in our lodging options in this county when B&Bs were few and far between, but it was also a trend coming up in the industry.
“The rest is history and as you heard, the business has prospered,” Rose continued. “It’s clear that as the business grew, Tom built a product that has destination quality and one that complements Pocahontas County’s vacation experience. He recognized an opportunity, he knew guest expectations and used this knowledge to build Jerico B&B and Pre-Civil War Cabins.”
A man of few words, Moore humbly accepted the award and offered his thanks for the recognition.
Rose spoke about traveling trends and shared suggestions on ways to continue to enhance the time visitors spend in the county.
“Does anybody know the number one reason visitors come to Pocahontas County?” Rose asked. “It’s scenic beauty. That’s why they love to come to Pocahontas County. Do you know the second most popular reason visitors choose to come to Pocahontas County? Because of the friendly people.”
Rose said it is important to focus on enhancing the scenic beauty and friendliness because those are the reasons visitors return each year.
“The number one thing I think we can all do to maintain and enhance our competitiveness as a destination is ensuring that we continue to meet these two expectations that keep visitors returning,” Rose said. “Keeping our county scenic, pristine, clean of litter and taking the utmost pride in maintaining its scenic beauty. Number two – being committed to hospitality. It is everyone’s business. This is the people’s business. It impacts all of us if a visitor has a poor experience as a result of a poor interaction with a person.”
Pocahontas County is the only county in West Virginia dedicated to hospitality training. The CVB provides public classes in order for businesses and their employees to learn the ins and outs of hospitality.
Rose shared examples of ways businesses can “brand” themselves to be a vacation destination and not just a stop on the way to vacation.
“We must look for ways to enhance year-round tourism products and I think we’re seeing much of this going on – seasonal activities, outdoor recreation, fish stocking, the growing agri-tourism, and the continued support of local arts and crafts,” she said. “You’ve got to stand out – build a cultural identity and authentic experiences.”
One experience that brings travelers from all over the country is the slightly new fad of geocaching.
CVB Groups and Events Coordinator Sarah Irvine announced the new geocache challenge.
“Our challenge this year is set up with eight caches around Pocahontas County,” Irvine said. “This theme is based around the Birthplace of Rivers, so I tried to get them in locations different than the locations we’ve had in the years past, but also locations that are close to the rivers we have here.”
The challenge began May 1 and ends October 31. Visit www.pocahontascountywv. com and click on the Geocaching link to download the challenge sheet.
The CVB invited Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad’s Mark Branciaroli to explain the new reservation system at Cass Scenic Railroad. DGVR took over train operations at Cass last fall.
Branciaroli said DGVR has been preparing for its first season operating Cass and has changed the way people will reserve seats and tickets.
“Our new reservation system – its the only one of its type for tourist trains in the world,” he said. “On our website, people actually go here and make reservations. We can view any of the tickets any time. We can actually go into the cars and see who is sitting where.”
For the first time, people will be able to reserve specific seats on the Cass train because the rides will no longer be over sold. Every seat will be filled and there will not be visitors standing during the ride.
Visitors can print their tickets at home or download it to their smart phones. The ticket counter will also be open in the depot for individuals buying tickets on site.
Branciaroli added that there is a possibility for area lodging businesses to give guests the opportunity to buy tickets online or to have their ticket waiting for them at check-in.
“If you’re a lodging entity and you want to provide a service to your guests, specific to what they’re going to do here, we can give you a coupon code that’s specific to your lodging entity,” Branciaroli said. “If you want to use it, you can make a reservation at your facility and you could print out their e-tickets and give the tickets to them when they get there. You can do a package in-house by using our system.”
There will also be kiosks located at the Cass depot and the CVB for visitors to make reservations. Branciaroli added that more kiosks could be installed at any businesses or attractions that wish to participate.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org