CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said it’s time to take action in order to protect the reputation of the city in the wake of this month’s water emergency.

The CVB Board met Wednesday and unanimously voted to join the city in its lawsuit against those involved in the chemical spill and water contamination that impacted 300,000 people in nine West Virginia Counties earlier this month.

That’s step one in the CVB’s master plan to help recover financially  from the impact of the water crisis.

(Read Charleston CVB plan here)

Charleston CVB Executive Director Alisa Bailey said they’ve asked Charleston businesses to report back to them on how much money they lost during the crisis. Twelve businesses have responded so far and the total is $1 million in losses. She said there are hundreds of businesses in the city that haven’t reported back yet and that number is going to soar.

Mark Cherry, the general manager of the Embassy Suites in Charleston, told other members of the board, “Trying to run a hotel has been a horror story!”

Bailey has been talking with members of convention and visitors bureaus along the Gulf Coast about how they handled the BP oil spill back in 2010. She said Charleston must take a page out of that playbook. She said the damage done to Charleston’s reputation has to be undone and the city re-branded.

Board member Lisa McCracken, the marketing director at the Town Center Mall, said there are still mixed signals about the safety of the water.

“Until there is a single, authoritative documentation, someone out front leading the charge pulling us through the public will continue to be panicked and nervous and suspicious,” McCracken said.

She and several others on the board told Charleston Mayor Danny Jones he needs to be that reassuring voice. He stressed he can’t do that until they have definitive proof the water is safe to consume and right now there’s a lot of mixed messages.

“I never dreamed it would be as bad as this,” Jones said.

The members of the CVB agreed once they get the proof they need that the water is safe to use they have to launch a campaign getting the word out. They plan to use social media and advertising to do it. They need to find out what resources are available to pay for that campaign and they need to talk with people who have visited Charleston before and get them to come back.

Bailey said it will take months but it’s a good starting point, not just for the city of Charleston but for the entire state.

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Comments

  • Drew Ciccarello

    I would offer that it is critical that the citizens have definitive proof and be abdolutely convinced the water is safe. I doubt the effectiveness of any marketing campaign effort, however honest and noble, while hundreds of residents continue to post fears, skepticism and refusal to drink the water on social media sites.

  • Tim McKinney

    Trust is the issue in Charleston. It has been broken and only time will tell if it can ever be restored. Worrying about a Marketing Campaign now is foolish, until you can sell a Hotel room with 100% confidence in the water to drink, or taking a shower is safe, no campaign in the world can overcome human fear. The CVB would be better served to demand from the Gov and the Senators to lobby for 2-4 Billion in Federal aide to begin to replace the entire water distribution network..It will need to be dug up and replaced before 100% confidence can be restored...Short of that, plaintiff attorneys will hold the power and will paralyze the state into a economic Coma.

  • Anna Pollitt

    Where do you begin to figure out what the losses are?! The people who have suffered the most are the servers and staff of many of these businesses. As the owner of the Quarrier Diner I am finding that the public in general is still afraid to eat out in fear of the unknown. What they need to know is that most of the food is actually pre-packaged and our water is never involved. Here at the Quarrier Diner we do use bottled water for pastas and other menu items requiring water. It's hard to tell if our numbers are way down because of the weather or if it is because of the water but January has been dismal. We are all looking forward to life getting back to normal.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    How 'bout: "Charleston--Better Living Through Chemistry"?

    • Mike

      Hip, Historic...Almost Odorless!

      • Mason County Contrarian

        Good work, Mike.

        From the look on their faces in the article photograph, these folks could use some cheering up.

        Let's hope we brought a smile to them.

    • Mike

      Charleston. Wake up and smell the water!

    • Mason County Contrarian

      Or even: "Charleston: Let Us Formalde Your Hide" or "Visit Charleston: Freedom's (Industries) Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose", with apologies to Janis Joplin.

      • Mike

        How about a TV commercial with Alisa Bailey jugging down a gallon of water straight from a fire hydrant. Nothing like a good testimonial, true life demonstration to counter the bad publicity of 250 million Americans who believe we have the most dangerous water in America. Better make it a :60 spot.

  • Jeanne Mozier

    I do not envy Alisa and her team this daunting task. Even here in Berkeley Springs, we are getting countless phone calls from potential visitors every day asking if our water is safe. We patiently explain the magic of our precious springs, the distance from Charleston, the presence of the Eastern Continental Divide protecting our water from this catastrophe. It is a particular challenge for Berkeley Springs, both because our water is a prime attraction and because in less than a month, we host the 24th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, largest in the world. Our tourism council took action immediately upon hearing about the horrifying accident in Charleston by establishing the Clean Water Pledge. It is on our website berkeleysprings.com where people can print it off and sign. It will be promoted at the water tasting where folks from around the world can take the pledge. Most of all, we live by the pledge. Water is life.

    • Watershed

      Water Tasting event in WV? Now that is funny!

  • Jennie Hill

    Ironic and awesome that CVB is the acronym for "convention and visitors bureau"... I was reading it as "Chemical Valley Board" the whole article.
    Tough job. Tough crowd.
    I'd rebrand that CVB thing first and worry about promoting the town when we know it's actually safe for visitors. Who's gonna throw a convention and tell their pregnant guests to either bring water or stay home?

  • Rodney Hytonen

    "Charleston CVB Executive Director Alisa Bailey said they’ve asked Charleston businesses to report back to them on how much money they lost during the crisis."

    THIS is what's wrong with every part of "our" government and media.

    Business dollars?
    What about 300 thousand PEOPLE's health, families and lives?

    What about the almost two MILLION lives impacted and damaged by DRILLING and production.

    (and no, it HASN't impacted West Virginians's jobs, at least not positively, and certainly not permanently.)
    How about the many being forced to LEAVE by industrializing their towns and farm areas, making the very AIR cumulatively poisonous, as well as the water permanently so under the ground?)

    • Charleston

      What about 300 thousand PEOPLE's health, families and lives?

      FYI: I heard this morning that the state is looking into tax deductions for the FY 2014 for those affected in the 9 counties. Hopefully this will ease some stress. Trust me, I am empathetic to your concern.

    • Shannon P

      Rodney, I ABSOLUTELY agree with everything you say here! It is unconscionable how West Virginia citizens and our beautiful land is treated by outside interests and internal greed! However, in this instance, I believe what the CVB is trying to do is track financial loss for documentation in their law suit against the perpetrators and negligent bystanders in this horrendous mess. Law suits require meticulous documentation. The economy of WV has been and will continue to be deeply impacted by this disaster and it is the right of the WV business owners and employees to try to recoup as much of their losses as possible.

  • Chef Camille

    OH AND PART OF THE PLAN IS BRING YOUR OWN WATER.

  • BH

    Clean up the so called "gateway" to Charleston- those absolutely hideous eyesores along the Leon Sullivan Way exit-the green plexiglass overpass and that disgusting State Building should both be torn down. While your at it replace the Charleston Civic Center (decrepit inside and out) instead of building an unnecessary library.

    • Larry

      Not to mention all of the run-down, decrepit houses perched precariously on sheer rock cliffs coming into Charleston, near the Westmoreland exit, along with everything on the west side, east end, and N. Charleston.

  • Pickle Barrel

    Water is the top of mind thing now. Eventually, it will be fixed. The ongoing problem of cleaning out the rat's nests of the Transit Mall and the West Side must be addressed as well. It's a dying city that doesn't know it's dying…but those who don't live there can see it plain as day.

    • Larry

      Very true. If not for the state capital and the hospitals, there would be no Charleston.

  • Whip

    Promote Charleston as a survivalist destination. An urban decay setting with poison water and run down buildings. Poorly educated people with bad teeth chase visitors through the streets trying to to be over the top friendly to compensate for their crummy surroundings. It may work...or change the name of the town. Anyone with sense is going to the one South Carolina.

    • J THE CARNEY GUY

      Sounds like a plan but where do we find anyone friendly?

      • Whip

        That's what hear when you live in Charleston. Everyone is so friendly, don't you think everyone is so friendly? It's something they try to hang onto because there is not much else. Pickle Barrel is right.....it's in a death spiral and those on the plane are in denial. Instead of sending water they need to send moving vans.

        • Charleston

          Whip:
          I am not trying to "slam" your comment but I have a rhetorical question for you in regards to your response to J/Survivalist: Do you choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution? I say this because the problem(s) in Charleston are, in my humble opinion, only a microcosym of what is going on in the United States. We can correct this, that is, unless you choose to flight (pun intended).

          • Whip

            Charleston, your city fell over the edge years ago. The only middle class that is left are people who worked at Union Carbide, FMC, DuPont and a host of other major employers that have long since vanished. These are the retires....the kids left years ago. City, State and county governments never made the changes necessary to remain competitive with the rest of the country. For years Charleston was able to keep out all the problems that are West Virginia. When the jobs vanished so did the walls. Charleston has finally become the microcosym that is West Virginia. To not believe this that puts you in denial.

  • J THE CARNEY GUY

    I'm so sick of Danny Jones and the City of Charleston... Kanawha Valley would be a better place if South Charleston would annex Charleston and dissolve its government.

    danny do the right thing and move to Louisville, Ky. PLEASE!!

  • cutty77

    Why do this Suprise me. Danny saying this is worse than he ever thought, DUH. First of all quit talking about the water,it will take care of itself in time. Take care of your People that sell The City,if their not happy Charlestons customers will not be happy. Things Happen for a reason,how you deal with them is up to you. I like this Meeting,but like most meetings most times its all talk and no Action. One thing for sure we will see what kind of leadership you have in Charleston.

    • Mtn Gal

      Quit talking about the water? I'll stop talking about it when every child, elderly person and pregnant women can take a shower and a drink in complete confidence that they are not harming their short or long term health.

      • cutty77

        That will never happen Dear. If you don't like it,then leave Charleston. Simple as that. Your either part of the problem,or part of solution. You Pick