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.
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.