With the recent controversy about how to distribute the Hotel/Motel Tax monies, Cara Rose, the Executive Director of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to remind everyone about exactly what that tax is, and that the success of the tourism industry in Pocahontas County is why it generates such a large amount of money.
“Tourism drives the rural Pocahontas County Economy,” Rose said. “Whether you like it or not, it really does drive our economy. According to state numbers, (there was) $144 million of direct spending from the visitors in 2021, and 28% of employment is Pocahontas County is directly related to tourism. Last year, tourism grew by nearly 18% over the previous year. So, tourism is a great opportunity for Pocahontas County, so we either have the opportunity to embrace it and grow it, or not participate, not believe in tourism, and tear it down.”
“We can measure success through Hotel/Motel Tax for sure. Last year, $2.6 million was collected, (which was) again another growth of nearly 18% over the previous year. I will qualify that by saying that the previous year we did not have AirBNB and the other third-party facilitators, directly remitting taxes. So, we’ve seen a big jump in Hotel/Motel taxes primarily because those third parties are now remitting the taxes on behalf of the hosts. So, that will level off now, from January on – we’ll see that level out.”
“Of course, you know, Pocahontas County is blessed with four seasons of outdoor recreation. We have some of the most unique attractions in the state of West Virginia, and even in the country, and potentially in the world. But our most valuable asset is not any of those things, it is our people. When all of the residents are benefitting from the tourist dollar, we are all responsible to ensure that visitors have a great experience when they come here. Every business in Pocahontas County is in the tourism business. Whether you are directly in the tourism business, or indirectly, you benefit from the tourism dollar. So, it really does behoove us to be thoughtful about engaging with the guest, and customer service, and smiling. And it doesn’t matter if you work at the convenience store, you work at the courthouse, you might work in an insurance office, or you might work at a bank, at some point in time, you are going to engage with a visitor. Every one of us is in the hospitality business. Hospitality is important at every level, every encounter, every time, by everyone.
“It also provides a really strong foundation for quality of life for our residents. We all live here because we love it here.”
Cara went on to explore the relationship between tourism and economic development here in Pocahontas County.
“Tourism does not hinder other types of economic development at all, it enhances it. When you think about what economic development really looks like, every destination is different. Everybody is unique, and you have unique opportunities, so I think of economic development as, obviously, tourism development; recreation development; product development; marketing those tourism assets and services, as well. And community enrichment is a big part of economic development. It does play a very important role. Extracurricular activities – arts, libraries, Parks and Recreation. Schools are vital to economic development, housing, broadband, we talk a lot about all these things. Medical access is very important to economic development. And recreational access is now becoming very important to businesses looking for places to relocate to, so, it’s a much bigger picture, and sometimes we get socked into this tunnel vision as to what we think it should look like.
“But, as a community, we really need to look at a much broader view of what economic development looks like for us. And for us, tour-ism does play a big roll!”