By Stephen Smoot
The Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau took another step toward finalizing local tourism marketing materials last week during its monthly regular meeting.
First, the board heard reports from the CVB committees.
The grants committee shared that “we did receive the grant from AFNHA and we received a check for that.” Annie Humes stated “that’s a three-year long grant” from the Appalachian Forest National Historical Area, recently given official status from the United States Congress after years of support from Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, as well as Congressman Alex Mooney.
Humes explained that the purpose lay in equipping “ourselves to use our cultural assets for tourism” by connecting “with stakeholders with cultural assets throughout the county.”
Amber Nesselrodt, executive director, gave the marketing committee report. She opened with an update on discussions with the department of highways on improved entry signs into the county. They told the CVB that “it depends on exactly where we are placing the sign,” pointing out that some desirable spots may be on private property and others on the state road right of way.
The eastern border where U.S. 33 crosses the state line into Virginia has a parking lot with a preferable spot for a sign, but it is half owned by the State of West Virginia and half owned by the George Washington National Forest.
Nesselrodt then said that “a wonderful flyer” for the visit of the US Capitol Christmas Tree at Swilled Dog had just been created. She added that it would be desirable to produce rack cards and to get a quote on the cost of a banner. Nesselrodt would “seek permission to put a banner across the road in Franklin. Humes shared that Petersburg allowed something similar. Also, the Town of Piedmont in Mineral County has a permanent banner over State Route 46.”
Jeff Munn, owner of Dry Run Distillery, suggested that the CVB arrange for signs at the junction of State Route 93 and State Route 28 in Petersburg. He said that signs there point tourists toward Seneca Rocks and they “find no need to go anywhere else” in the county. Signs also directing visitors to go to attractions in the direction of Franklin would also be desirable.
The board then saw a presentation from Buddy Baker from New South Media. This group does most of the marketing of the CVB, as well as other organizations in the area. Baker first discussed the adventure guide, saying they used photography to tell the story of Pendleton County to avoid it ending up “just another book of listings.”
He also said, “The goal is to keep it clean and simple,” adding that he hopes people “pick this up and want to find out more.” QR codes help to direct readers to specific places on the CVB website for lodging, food, etc. Going forward, NSM will continue to add and change content “to keep it fresh.”
The main change suggested lay in adding “Pendleton County” to the top in case the guides are placed behind opaque racks.
Baker then showed videos created by NSM for county tourism promotion.
Humes stated that the videos, which feature adventure tourism sites, are “a beautiful representation of one of the sections,” but expressed concerns that other parts of the county were not included.
Baker replied that “my advice is always to play to your strengths,” meaning that with limited resources of time, space, and money, that the strategy lay in promoting the strongest and most unique assets to get potential visitors’ attention, then other sections and attractions can play off of that.
He added that NSM had significant amounts of film for the county that they did not use in the initial videos. Starting next year, they would add to what he called “the toolkit” with clips and short videos of other attractions in the county.
Finally, Munn and Humes discussed strategy ideas with the board. Munn stated that the strategy should have “two tracks,” one for those who drive through or make day trips to the county and another for those making longer stays. Humes responded by saying that a data-driven approach would help the CVB pinpoint the activities and behavior of visitors. “How do we capitalize and be measurable?” she asked.