What an amazing summer it has been in Greenbrier County. From The Greenbrier Classic to the New Orleans Saints training camp to record crowds at the State Fair of West Virginia, our area has hosted thousands of visitors in just six short weeks. In fact, the State Fair experienced its largest attendance day in its history on the first Saturday with over 31,000 visitors. It has never been more apparent that Greenbrier County must strategically plan for tourism growth and all of the economic benefits it can bring.
On July 28, the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau approached the Greenbrier County Commission for funding out of the county’s portion of the hotel/motel tax for a three pronged approach to planning for the tourism industry’s future. The Greenbrier County Tourism Development Initiative includes a 5-Year Strategic Plan to prepare for future growth of the industry in Greenbrier County, a Transportation and Event Parking Study focusing on moving and parking visitors for large events held throughout the year and a Group Sales Initiative that concentrates on coordinating our resources to bring in visitors during the off-season when local businesses need them most.
The CVB was denied the funding request by the County Commission with the pretense that we should use our own funds. However, this initiative is over and above our normal responsibility and beyond the purpose of our fully budgeted share of the hotel/motel tax. We are a destination marketing organization whose mission is to “positively impact the area’s economy by marketing it as a premier tourist destination.” Our hotel/motel tax allocation is spent on direct marketing, public relations efforts, managing the Greenbrier Valley Visitors Center and professional staff.
Tourism is the largest industry in our county, supporting over 2400 jobs with over $80 million a year in earnings. Visitors spent $247 million in Greenbrier County in 2012, according to the state’s most recent economic impact study. In a state where our economy and the job market are rapidly changing, it’s the perfect time for us to embrace the good fortune we have in a strong tourism industry and do what we can to make it stronger. To plan for future growth, to create jobs, to put more feet on the streets and heads in beds, to ease traffic snarls that affect both our visitors and locals.
The Greenbrier County CVB is offering to spearhead the initiative. The only piece missing is the funding. The hotel/motel tax is paid by visitors staying in hotels within our county and is split equally between the County Commission and the CVB. The county’s unspent share of the tax, which by State Code is also intended for tourism purposes, currently exceeds $2.3 million. This initiative fully complies with State Code, will improve employment opportunities throughout the county and is an appropriate investment supported by business owners, tourism professionals and many progressive state and local officials.
We cannot wait and let tourism just happen; we must plan and prepare. The CVB will appear soon before the County Commission to repeat its request from the county’s hotel/motel fund and ask that you assist by making known your support for this initiative, also.
Mike Kidd, President
Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors