Executive Director Kara Dense with the Greenbrier Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau presented the CVB’s 2017/18 annual report at the Tuesday night Greenbrier County Commission meeting.
Expounding on the impact tourism has had on the Greenbrier Valley, Dense cited a study by the West Virginia Tourism Office which claimed an increase of $33 million in growth over the previous year culminating in a total of $199 million in direct market spending. Visitors are coming to the valley mostly to vacation, to get away and for special events like TOOT and the Chocolate Festival.
What people like most, Dense said, “is our friendly people, beauty and scenery, history and outdoor recreation options.” She touted the new flights offered by the Greenbrier Valley Airport which target both Washington D.C. and Chicago as the primary hubs for the CVB’s advertising campaign to foster awareness of the Greenbrier Valley and encourage it as a travel destination. Tourism industry jobs have grown over the past year to 2,270, and Dense anticipates another 127 jobs by year’s end.
Greenbrier Valley Airport Director Stephen Snyder, who followed Dense at the microphone, affirmed that air service is, indeed, a key component for the success of tourism in the valley. Toward that effort, he cited ongoing improvement at the airport to the tune of $6 million, including another six to eight projects that are 100 percent government funded with the engineering and bids already completed.
“Our job, bottom line,” Snyder said, looking down the road, “is to try and keep our kids here in West Virginia, and that means finding a way to bring more jobs to Greenbrier Valley.”
In keeping abreast of the impact that an airport has, Snyder said the Airport Authority is establishing an airport-focused convention and visitors bureau (CVB) at the airport using a small portion of hotel/motel tax funds.
Dense said she hopes to be a participant with the airport CVB. County commissioner Lowell Rose also said he’d like to see more coordination develop. “I would like to see the [GVCVB], everybody with the commission and the airport to start pulling together more,” he said.
Working together would appear to be an improvement on how tourism market tracking is handled, which, as Dense previously described, requires “utilizing a combination of regional and travel-centric, digital impressions” to bring more awareness of our area and drive air traffic to Greenbrier County, all without duplicating the marketing efforts already used by GVCVB, United Airlines or SkyWest.
By way of example, Snyder cited the Boy Scouts of America’s return next summer to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County, with an expected 46,000 scouts and include approximately 30,000 additional family members and other visitors, all needing flight reservations and lodgings. Snyder’s efforts to capture that volume of traffic flow was impeded, he said, by the Boy Scouts’ plans to tour “…everywhere in America except the state hosting them for their jamboree – when West Virginia has so many things to offer,” he said. “It was all too late.”
The airport also lost an anticipated multi-million dollar contract as a result of Hurricane Florence. “We have to believe we can hold on our own as a tourist destination,” Snyder said, “but to make that happen, [the airport], as an economic engine, needs a continuous funding stream year after year.”