ROANOKE, W.Va. — The CEO of Benchmark Hospitality, the company that manages and operates Stonewall Resort in Lewis County, says tourists these days are looking for something different.

“People want to have stories, they want to make memories.  Tourism is all about experiences.  Tourism is about localism and the new consumer today absolutely wants that experience and it’s not necessarily about the physical place,” said Alex Cabanas, CEO of Benchmark Hospitality.

“It is all about the experience and West Virginia has a lot of things that people just don’t know about it and I think you have to tell the story.  It’s got to be emotionally connecting people to a destination.”

Benchmark Hospitality is made up of hotels, resorts and conference centers across the United States and in the Caribbean.

This week, Benchmark’s general managers and directors from those locations, some of them five-star places, have been meeting at Stonewall Resort — the first time the West Virginia resort has hosted the event.

“The comments about the team and the property, and West Virginia as well, have been unbelievable,” Cabanas said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I know a lot of people who have come here who, in some cases, have never been to West Virginia.  (They) were truly surprised at the topography, the natural resources, the history that’s here, some of the destinations that exist.”

Before becoming Benchmark’s CEO, Cabanas served as the company’s chief development officer.  During his time in that role, the company added 13 properties and expanded into South America.  Prior to joining Benchmark Hospitality in 2006, Cabanas worked with the Boston Consulting Group.

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