Advocates say tourism spending is an investment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those in the state’s tourism industry showed off what they offer to visitors to anyone strolling through the State Capitol on Monday. It was tourism day at the legislature and many of those in the industry wore buttons which simply read “8 to 1.” According to Jeffrey Lusk, Executive Director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails and Chairman of the State Tourism Commission, that’s an important ratio for West Virginia.

“That 8 stands for the eight dollars that are returned to the state in taxes for every one dollar spent on tourism,” Lusk explained in an appearance on MetroNews Talkline. “If we didn’t have tourism and tourism spending, every single resident of this state would have to pay another $700 in taxes just to make up the difference.”

Lusk said statistics for the state’s tourism industry are clear, the most critical need for the industry is marketing. Resorts and destinations in West Virginia are solid and research showed when people visit West Virginia they want to come back. Lusk said more than 80 percent of tourists are repeat customers.

“We see it as an investment, we only get about 14 percent of new visitors every year so we need to get the word out and get these folks here,” said Lusk. “We know, our destinations are great and once people visit them, they want to come back.”

Lusk used the numbers of defend a request by the Justice Administration to increase tourism spending by $14 Million, up from about $7 Million. Some balk at the idea of spending the money on tourism marketing when PEIA is about to explode and teachers are on the verge of striking over the increased costs of their benefits and poor pay.

“We believe investing those additional funds in tourism is what’s going to help the state balance future budgets,” said Lusk.

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