By Stephen Smoot
As tourism continues to provide more impact for the local and regional economy, the Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau board discussed target audiences and broadened appeals. They also reviewed the draft of the eventual visitors’ map to the county.
First, the board heard that vice chair Stephanie Hartman had stepped down. Janice Lantz, board president, also expressed a desire to vacate her officer role due to the time demands of the position.
Members present included new appointees Lindsay Kazarick from Future Generations University, independent contractor Annie Humes, and Kim Kirk from Swilled Dog. They received appointment after the board voted to increase its number to 11.
New members also received a briefing on the unique accounting situation faced by CVBs where hotel/motel tax receipts given to the organization must be divide among 40 percent for marketing, 40 percent for the salary of the director, and 20 percent for other administration costs. Other funds may be used either for determinations made by other sources, or as the organization sees fit.
“This is the most well put together brochure I have seen for Pendleton County,” praised Brian Williams, board member from NRocks, when the group offered feedback to the work done thus far by New South Media.
Jeff Munn, board member and owner of Dry Run Distillery, suggested that the map needed “to include a call to action” to get people involved. “Call to action” is a marketing phrase referring to any element on a piece of advertising that asks the audience or reader to do something.
Humes then discussed the merits of working with the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area. This initiative, started under President Ronald Reagan, recognized 18 West Virginia and two Maryland counties as important centers of culture and history in the central Appalachians.
In 2019, with support from Senators Capito and Manchin, as well as Alex Mooney, Evan Jenkins, Jenkins’ successor Carol Miller, and David McKinley, the AFNHA became a full fledged National Heritage Area. These regions have a special federal designation as “places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes.” The AFNHA website goes on to say that “unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, National Heritage Areas entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.”
Humes stated that the AFNHA recognizes “residents, culture, and life here, both the people and the natural environment.” She added that it also relies on partnering with local individuals, businesses, and organizations.
Working with the AFNHA can bring grant funding opportunities “we are really wonderful candidates for,” she said.
Organizations with 501 © 3 and 501 © 6 tax status with the IRS may apply for grants. Businesses may not apply, but they can be part of the support team for the non profit applicant. Applicants’ projects must work toward one of five goals, which are preserving community assets, interpretive activities, tourism development, and/or facilitating partnerships. Applications are due on July 31.
Humes also explained, “this is a subgrant. The goal is to help groups that are not experienced grant writers.”
Amber Nesselrodt, county CVB executive director, suggested that a grants committee be formed to discuss opportunities.
The board examined a number of promotional opportunities for Pendleton County tourism. Members frowned on an opportunity to advertise in Ohio Magazine, but saw better opportunities in regions closer to Pendleton County. Munn stated that “75 percent of my business comes from Virginians traipsing across the border on the weekends.” He added that “they are tired of the same ol’ same ol’” and want to experience different places and activities.
Kirk suggested that a committee form to put together a marketing strategy, urging that “we can’t be all things to all people.” She added that the board should also work on a vision to guide efforts.
The board also discussed how to use marketing to let those close to and within Pendleton County know about attractions and events, but also to reassure residents that the CVB remains active, engaged, and always exploring creative ways to boost tourism.