MORGANTOWN — Research from a West Virginia Travel Impacts study shows traveler spending in the state grew at a rate 30 percent above the national average in 2017, growing at a rate of 3.9 percent compared to the 3.0 national rate of growth.
Gov. Jim Justice visited the 2018 West Virginia Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Morgantown Wednesday to announce the numbers.
“This is a landmark day for our tourism industry and our economy as a whole,” Justice said in a statement. “When I took office, I knew we had to do something to get back on the right track in tourism, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Tourism needs to be a cornerstone of our economy. It’s great to see it growing again.
“The numbers have really turned. I more than thrilled. I’m so proud I’m about to bust out at the seams... Since we launched our new campaign in May, our numbers have really taken off, ” Justice told more than 200 tourism industry officials at the conference.
“It’s just going to get better and better and better," Justice said, noting that his background, experience and education are in marketing. “This industry just needs to explode.”
The increase — detailed in tourism economic-impact research released Wednesday — reverses a four-year decline in travel-generated spending in the state. From 2012 to 2016, spending dropped by more than 14 percent, or $695 million, according the governor.
Leon Aliski of Dean Runyan Associates — a leading national firm for tourism economic research — presented details of the 2017 West Virginia Travel Impacts study Wednesday.
“The governor’s vision for tourism is already paying dividends,” said Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby. “With our state’s natural beauty and abundance of activities, tourism should be a growth industry... Last year, it finally was. Under the governor’s direction, we’re looking forward to more progress in 2018.”
Tourism industry representatives from across West Virginia are in Morgantown this week for the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which includes education seminars and industry updates and the 2018 Stars of Almost Heaven Awards Dinner.
Held at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place and hosted by the West Virginia Tourism Office, the annual event provides an opportunity for tourism industry partners to come together to discuss promoting West Virginia as a destination.
“Sessions are designed to provide partners with educational and training opportunities on the latest trends and issues in the tourism industry, as well as dedicated time to network and collaborate on ways to work together to showcase West Virginia on a local, regional and national scale,” Ruby said.
See the full conference agenda at wvtourism.com/2018-governors-conference/2018-governors-conference-on-tourism-agenda.