CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s tourism industry has grown for the second straight year, according to numbers released by Gov. Jim Justice’s office.
The numbers, from a yearly economic impact research by Dean Runyan Associates out of Oregon, found the two-year growth trend now outpaces national growth by 58 percent. Information was released at the industry’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism and state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby said on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ that it’s an exciting time.
“Economic conditions in this state are improving which means folks are getting out and exploring their backyard,” Ruby said. “Secondly, I attribute to better promotion. We have a governor with a vision on tourism, a legislature who has fully supported it and increased our promotion dollars.”
Traveler spending in West Virginia grew at a rate of 6.5 percent totaling $4.55 billion in 2018, according to the research. That includes a traveler spending increase over the past two years of 9.9 percent.
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Ruby said there is a lot to sell in West Virginia. She added that no one category is sticking out in the numbers but all have sectors have consistently grown.
“What we are selling is the mountains. It’s that view that you got no matter where you are in West Virginia,” she said. “Nestled in those mountains you are going to find charming small towns, unbelievable outdoor recreation, and the friendliest folks anywhere.”
Chelsea Ruby, State Tourism Commissioner at @WVtourism, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss growing tourism in West Virginia. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/yvHVECRzhw
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 16, 2019
A selling point for the office was an advertising campaign in the Washington D.C. called Destination Unknown. 36 individuals, out of more than 500 entries, were selected to enjoy a vacation in West Virginia that no one knew the location of. Ruby said the winners boarded a bus at Union Station in D.C. to head to Canaan Valley.
Tracy Moore of Lynchburg, Virginia and her husband were two of the visitors and said on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ that they enjoyed every second of it.
“There’s Seneca Rocks, there is rock climbing and we did horseback riding that we loved,” she said. “It’s the beauty of the mountains, the meadows, and the waterfalls.”
However, one of Justice’s challengers in the 2020 race for governor is disputing the report’s numbers.
Republican candidate Woody Thrasher released a statement on Wednesday saying:, “The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis tells the real truth about West Virginia’s tourism industry: both the arts, entertainment and recreation, and the accommodations and food sectors showed declines as contributors to West Virginia’s GDP from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019.
“Things may look rosy at The Greenbrier, but one of our four major ski resorts closed this year. That doesn’t indicate a strong, thriving industry. A full-time Governor would be looking at all the available data and indicators to make proactive decisions with long-term, positive effects.”