By Stephen Smoot
Amber Nesselrodt, executive director of the Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, returned from last week’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism with ample reason to celebrate the industry in West Virginia.
She joined more than 300 tourism industry professionals at Canaan Valley to hear great news about state industry numbers, learn more about what others are doing to market their regions, and strengthen the county’s presence in industry circles.
One highlight, Nesselrodt stated, was when Governor Jim Justice addressed a lunch gathering. “Of course Babydog came too,” she shared.
“The economic impact of tourism in West Virginia,” Nesselrodt said, “exceeded $7 billion. That’s billion with a B!” She went on to say that the state saw a 17 percent visitor spending increase tourism post-pandemic, compared to an overall United States expansion of approximately one percent. Since 2016, visitor spending in West Virginia has jumped by nearly a third.
According to a news release from the Governor office, these statistics come from Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company.
Additionally, visitor spending added $887 million in tax revenues with $520 million going to state and local government. Nesselrodt explained that the rise in hotel-motel tax revenues in Pendleton County indicate that the county has enjoyed a significant tourism surge as well.
“Post pandemic, outdoor recreation really took off,” Nesselrodt stated, adding that “Pendleton County has been marketed as an outdoor recreation community. It’s a great place for people to relax and escape.”
“The main thing I took away,” she shared,” was highlighting what makes your county unique. Highlight the special things.” While most know about the impressive scenery surrounding Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, and Smoke Hole Canyon, Pendleton County also attracts visitors interested in its history, heritage, and locally produced foods. Events such as Treasure Mountain Festival, Trout Fest, and more also bring an impact to tourism.
Nesselrodt noted the state’s bottom up approach, saying “the governor’s office is invested in helping each individual county” to develop its own unique attractions, especially small “mom and pop” business.
“Tourism and economic development go hand in hand,” Nesselrodt said, also stating “it’s important for the CVB to let the businesses know that we’re here to support them. I welcome them to contact our office and talk to us.” She added that “it’s important as we are bringing people into the county to have the support of the community as well.”
Pendleton County was also represented by Lindsay Kazarick and Annie Humes. Kazarick serves as chair of the CVB board and also represented Future Generations University. Humes directs the Pendleton County Farmers Market and also serves on the CVB board.
In other developments, the CVB recently unveiled the first new county adventure guide in a decade. “It highlights everything in Pendleton County,” she said, adding that it includes beautiful photographs and a helpful map. A more substantial guide will be available soon. She also noted that Folkways Film Group made videos and photo shoots of Pendleton County attractions. The CVB can use these on social media to help market the region to those who rely on the internet for information and advice on where to travel.
“You can feel the vibe in the county,” Nesselrodt said, adding that “great things are happening all around in Pendleton County.”