FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Whitewater outfitters in West Virginia have great optimism headed in to the 2021 rafting season. Although there’s no real “opening” day to the season, the first Monday after Easter or the first Monday in April is generally considered the start.
A year after the Covid 19 pandemic wrecked the industry in 2020, there is a feeling the bounce back will be tremendous for this year.
“We’re so happy things are starting to get more normal. We’re just waiting for word from the government to tell us how to operate, but we know demand will be extremely high this year. We’re very excited and it’s going to be a great year,” said Dave Arnold, with Adventures on the Gorge and also a member of the state’s Tourism Commission.
It’s anticipated Governor Jim Justice will soon announce new Covid 19 protocols for the rafting industry for the 2021 season and they are expected to be much more relaxed than 2020.
There is reason for optimism. Last year’s protocols for Covid 19 cut deeply into the bottom line for the industry with limits on people allowed inside shuttle vehicles or in specific rafts. The overall pandemic also reduced visitors to the state. But Arnold said already they are starting to see this season will be a start contrast. Lodging bookings are up tremendously. He attributed a lot of that to the new designation of the New River Gorge as a National Park.
“That doesn’t happen very often. I think the only thing we can say is there will be growth. We can say that with a lot of confidence. Once you’re on the national scene, your reservations start to happen and we’re seeing it,” he explained.
He said reservations not only for his company, but for all companies across the rafting industry and in the Fayette and Raleigh County communities which cater to the tourism and rafting industries are seeing lodging reservations “off the charts”
Arnold credited the state’s handling of the pandemic for helping with the situation. Nationally West Virginia’s vaccination efforts have been a model of efficiency and have gotten strong and positive reviews across the country. According to Arnold that is translating into confidence for travelers who are considering vacation travel to West Virginia.