Former state Senator and successful businessman Oshel Craigo once told me his simple secret to success: “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.”
There’s a lot of truth to that old business axiom, especially as it relates to the state’s critical tourism industry.
A new study by Longwoods International commissioned by the state concludes that the Division of Tourism’s Wild, Wonderful West Virginia marketing campaign has paid benefits in several areas.
–The return on investment (state taxes collected from tourism-related businesses for dollars spent in advertising) has increased from $7 to $1 in 2014 to $14 to $1.
–The state’s image has improved. More people see West Virginia as a fun place to visit or a must-see destination where they can have a unique vacation experience.
–West Virginia is “closing the gap on the image ratings of other competitive states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.”
–The campaign has produced a “halo effect,” meaning it helps drive business development, retail sales, second home purchases and even college recruitment.
The report comes just a couple weeks before Jim Justice takes office as Governor. As the owner of the Greenbrier Resort, Justice knows something about the tourism industry and he’s promised his administration will put more emphasis on it.
“I’ll take tourism in this state to a level we’ve never seen before,” he said during the campaign, promising to create 16,000 new tourism-related jobs over the next four years.
That’s a tall order, especially when you consider the competition is fierce; every state promotes travel and tourism. But West Virginia does have some things going for it, including a prime location, natural beauty, reasonable prices and unique outdoor experiences.
We’re also getting better on the hospitality front. We’ve always been friendly and accommodating, but travelers want more; they expect their hosts to go above and beyond to enhance their vacation experience.
They have a return on investment expectation as well.
West Virginia’s current tourism and marketing budget is only $6.5 million. By comparison, Virginia’s is $18.6 million, according to the U.S. Travel Association. West Virginia already faces a projected $400 million shortfall in the next budget year, so it’s going to be hard to scrape up additional dollars for promoting the state.
West Virginia is realizing only a portion of its tourism potential. Our home is a wild and wonderful place where travelers can have real adventures. We just have to get them here, let them experience it for themselves and they will help spread the word.
(Editor’s Note: The state Division of Tourism spends a portion of its marketing budget with MetroNews.)