CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s time to put the past behind and focus on the future. That was the message Wednesday at the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Annual Meeting. City leaders and tourism officials talked about the good, the bad and the financial impact of 2013-2014.

CVB CEO Alisa Bailey said the number-one defining moment of the year was the Elk River chemical spill. It brought business to a halt in Charleston and for a time put some in financial hardship. Six months later, Bailey is confident the city has seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thousands of visitors enjoyed the Charleston Rod Run and Doo Wop last October.

“The water in that Elk is some of the cleanest and the (water treatment) facility is one of the best. We just really got hit with a whammy with that one,” according to Bailey.

However, she stressed she’s not getting phone calls from concerned travelers headed to Charleston asking about water safety.

“People are going to come back to Charleston and see that we’re stronger than ever, our water is cleaner than ever and we’re a great place to come and have a meeting or have fun,” she said.

Come this fall, it will be time for the CVB to start marketing the city to conventions and conferences looking for a place to hold their events. Bailey is hopeful other cities will play fair.

“We’ll see if our competitors try to use it against us. That’s one of our worries,” stressed Bailey.

She said there have been a lot of good things to happen to tourism in the Charleston area over the last 12 months like new hotels and retail stores popping up, restaurants opening and public and private investment into the tourism industry. But she said the one thing that will really set Charleston apart is currently in the works.

“The opportunity to improve and expand the Charleston Civic Center to make it a true convention center is really what’s going to fulfill our dreams to have a lot more people come to Charleston to enjoy what we have to offer!”

This past fiscal year, events in Charleston put 25,000 heads in beds at hotels, motels and B&Bs around the city. Bailey predicts that number will be 27,000 this time next year.

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