It should come as no surprise that a county as scenic and sprawling as Greenbrier — second largest by area in the state — is a major player in West Virginia’s tourism.
The economic impact of tourism on Greenbrier County in 2012 (the latest year for which data are available) was $243 million, the fifth-highest total in the state, according to Kara Dense, executive director of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Noting that The Greenbrier resort is the county’s largest single employer, with a staff estimated at 1,800 workers during the height of the tourism season, Greenbrier County Commission President Karen Lobban says the economic importance of “America’s resort” cannot be overemphasized.
“The Greenbrier is absolutely essential to our economy,” Lobban said. “Especially when you look at how much money pours into the region during The Greenbrier Classic (an annual PGA TOUR golf tournament) and other special events, it boosts a lot of the county’s other businesses.”
While County Commissioner Mike McClung agreed with Lobban that “tourism is important here,” he cautioned, “We can’t depend on that for all our needs.”
Commissioner Woody Hanna said of the county’s tourism industry, “It is important — maybe not a runaway, but still a positive spot. It’s dependent on the nation’s economy as a whole, though; when people are making more money, they’re more likely to go on vacations and stay in hotels longer.”
Home to a thriving arts community that includes one of only four Carnegie Halls still in operation worldwide, along with Greenbrier Valley Theatre, which is designated the State Professional Theater of West Virginia, Lewisburg is also a tourist magnet.
“Our economy is heavily dependent upon tourism,” Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester said. “We partner with various organizations on beautification efforts and numerous fairs and festivals.”