Greenbrier Valley benefits from tourism while working towards a sense of normalcy | State and region

As tourism quickly becomes the centerpiece of West Virginia’s economy, Greenbrier County is taking a more strategic look at its biggest industry.

In its 2021/2022 annual report, the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) outlines the steps they have taken and the progress that has been made in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as future plans for improve “tourism-related sectors” of the department.

“The annual report provides a 30,000 foot snapshot of what we’ve done as an organization over the past year,” CVB President and CEO Kara Dense told the Register-Herald. .

The report also contains a complete illustration of the efforts, statistics and results of the marketing strategies described in the 2020/2021 annual report.

“While Covid is far from over,” Dense wrote in the report’s introductory statement, “we have continued to work towards a sense of normalcy with fewer restrictions and larger gatherings and events returning to our region. .

“At the start of 2022, the CVB Board of Directors decided it was time to assess our organization and the county’s tourism industry,” Dense continued.

The first step in the evaluation process was commission from Young Strategies, Inc., a North Carolina-based research and planning agency specializing in the travel and destination industry.

“We engaged Berkeley Young, president of Young Strategies, to help us develop a strategic plan,” Dense wrote. “We will continue to focus on workforce development and transportation issues and continue to be advocates for the industry.”

Young surveyed some 400 “Greenbrier County leaders and tourism industry stakeholders” seeking input related to a variety of issues. Once the data was collected, Young partnered with Destination International – a developer of destination marketing software – to identify both the strengths and weaknesses of CVB’s current business plan. In May of this year, Young met with the CVB board to develop a three-year strategy based on his findings.

“Our goal was to have many Greenbrier County leaders and travel industry partners directly involved in the investigation and strategic planning process,” Young said. “Success is achieved when leaders and partners are engaged to develop the resulting plan.”

As part of the new ‘Destination Management Plan’, the CVB has created the position of ‘Destination Development Manager’. According to Dense, the office hopes the position will be filled by the fall.

To further configure its campaigns, the CVB is working with Epsilon – a results-driven marketing company – to identify the people most likely to travel to the Greenbrier Valley. CVB’s current marketing campaign targets potential travelers located in the Washington DC, Charleston/Huntington, Columbus, Lynchburg/Roanoke and Pittsburgh markets.

According to Epsilon reports, Greenbrier County had a total of 2,700 visitors for the period April 2021 through August 2021. Hotels and lodging accounted for 63% of visitor spending, while fuel purchases and groceries each accounted for 6%. Restaurants, retail stores, outdoor recreation and entertainment combined account for the remaining 25% of all visitor spending.

In another successful effort, the Greenbrier County CVB, Summers County CVB, New River Gorge CVB, Visit Southern West Virginia, and the West Virginia Department of Tourism have come together as the Regional Destination Partnership. The purpose of the partnership was “to promote the New River and Greenbrier Valley as a regional destination.” Each partner received six pages in the West Virginia Travel Guide, 50,000 copies of which were distributed with The Washington Post on May 22 of this year.

“With the designation of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve as our nation’s 63rd national park and the marketing and public relations efforts of the WV Department of Tourism, West Virginia has garnered national and global media attention. “, Dense said in the report. “Our state has been featured on USA Today, Frommer’s, Conde Nast Traveler and Time Magazine to name a few.

“Our region has certainly benefited from the attention,” Dense added. It’s a belief shared by West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby.

While speaking on a panel at the West Virginia Press Convention in Charleston in early August, Ruby said, “I would say there is nothing that has more one-sided support in the state of West Virginia right now as tourism. Every legislator, every county commissioner, every mayor, every city council – it seems like every one of them is excited about tourism and trying to figure out what they can do to be a part of it.

With the combination of 17 positive mentions of Greenbrier County in articles published in international travel magazines, along with the efforts of the Regional Destination Partnership, CVB’s marketing efforts are estimated to have reached more than 543 million people worldwide. world. This created $5 million in advertising value, a 20% increase over the prior year.

“Thank you for your continued support of Greenbrier County’s tourism industry,” Dense concluded. “We look forward to a successful year ahead.”

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