CHARLESTON, W.Va. — What Governor Jim Justice is calling a “rebranding of West Virginia” puts the Mountain State’s natural scenery at the forefront of a new tourism campaign.
It builds off the “Almost Heaven” in “Country Roads,” the song which serves as the campaign’s anthem.
“(We’re) Rebranding West Virginia with the song that every single person knows us (by),” Justice said during Wednesday’s campaign launch in Charleston.
“We’re embarking on something that’s going to drive lots and lots of folks here.”
Scenic views dominate both the print and television “Almost Heaven” campaign materials.
For the TV spot, The Sea The Sea, a band whose lead singer is Mira Stanley, a Charleston native, performs “Country Roads.”
The television ad is at the 23:00 mark in this video.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) April 11, 2018
A slightly different version with submitted photos was also released Wednesday on Twitter.
Each step away from the daily routine is a step closer to the place you belong. In West Virginia, you’ll feel far away from everything. And a little closer to heaven. #AlmostHeaven pic.twitter.com/yDcNVavrcG
— West Virginia Tourism (@WVtourism) April 11, 2018
Chelsea Ruby, West Virginia’s tourism commissioner, said the goal of the campaign is draw first-time visitors to West Virginia by “sharing the profound longing West Virginians feel for their home” while also inspiring repeat visitors to the Mountain State.
In all, “86 percent of people who come to West Virginia come back,” Ruby said. “We know that when we get them here, they fall in love with the state.”
Initial visits are the challenge, Ruby said.
Last year, only about 14 percent of the total visitors to West Virginia were in the state for the first time, according to tourism numbers.
“If we’re not willing to go out and market our state to others, then we’re not much of a frog,” Governor Justice said.
The campaign which will hit markets next week was tested in two West Virginia areas along with Washington, D.C., Charlotte, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio.
Going forward, “We want to change the way people think about West Virginia,” Ruby said.
“A year from now, I want to be standing here with the Governor telling you we have changed perceptions about West Virginia. We’ve countered some of those negatives. We’ve increased visitation and we’ve piqued interest for economic development.”