Cara Rose, Executive Director of the Pocahontas County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) delivered the opening remarks at the 2023 county Tourism Summit held at the Opera House in Marlinton May 9. The event highlights the Nature’s Mountain Playground’s tourism successes.
Rose talked about the Hotel/Motel Tax revenue as being a barometer of the tourism success here. She pointed out that those tax revenues were $1.6 million in fiscal year 2007-2008, and grew to $2.65 million in 2021 -2022, unhindered even by the COVID pandemic.
Similarly, she said, tour-ism seasonal trends show that growth in spring, summer and fall events such as the county receiving the International Mountain Biking Association’s designation as a Silver Ride Center, as well as growth in other warm weather activities, are beginning to close the tourism gap with the winter ski season. Rose said that some projections show that if these trends continue, it is possible that those other three seasons will approach the success of the winter season by the year 2030.
Rose said that the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) promotes the growth of tourism by protecting the environment and by supporting local culture, local residents and the community’s economic growth. She said those are reasons the CVB has been so involved with the Housing Task Force, the Broadband Council and the Mon Forest Towns initiatives.
After a great lunch, provided by Rayetta’s Lunchbox, Linda Adams talked briefly about some of the grants the CVB has been utilizing.
The main speaker, Andy Williams of the West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, spoke about developing successful tour-ism economies. He said one of the keys to doing that is finding the sweet spot between tourism, economic development and management of public lands.
Williams said that, in West Virginia, economic growth is difficult because of a declining population, the state having lost 12% of its popu- lation since 1950 including 3% in the last 10 years. He said there are about 40,000 jobs unfilled in the state, and graduates of WVU are obtaining their PhDs then accepting jobs in other states. However, he said, recreation-based counties continue to attract new residents and higher incomes. Williams cites as an example that many people with high paying jobs are relocating from Silicon Valley, California, to Utah because they want to have access to nearby outdoor recreation.
Williams said outdoor recreation activities account for $887 billion nationwide, which is more than the fuel, automotive, healthcare and insurance industries generate. In West Virginia, outdoor recreation creates $1.6 billion and 19,000 jobs, but only accounts for 2.7% of the state’s employment, so according to Williams, there is nowhere to go but up for the WV outdoor recreation industries because West Virginia has the greatest density of rivers and white water in the U.S.; the third most popular climbing areas in the Mid-Atlantic; and a growing number of trails.
He said to grow our outdoor economy, we need to promote our unique story in an honest, authentic way and celebrate our culture. If we do this, Williams said, “tourism is the red carpet to residency.” In-other-words, just like the people moving to Utah from Silicon Valley, tourists will first visit here and many will end up moving here to be close to all the outdoor activities they love.
Luci Mosesso talked about the “Leave No Trace” program, which emphasizes doing a better job protecting the outdoors.
Chelsea Faulknier talked about the nationwide marketing themes the CVB employs such as the Un- common Trails; Uncommon Experiences; Uncommon Routes themes to promote tourism here.
Rose then introduced Brynn Kusic, the Operations Manager of the Pocahontas County Opera House, as the winner of the 2023 Tourism Person of the Year, citing her enthusiastic dedication to making the Opera House thrive, as well as her contributions to creating Discovery Junction.