Morgantown visitors bureau celebrates tourism at awards reception

MORGANTOWN — Local tourism boosters gathered at the West Virginia University Art Museum Wednesday night to celebrate the industry during the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) 2018 Tourism Awards Reception.

Gov. Jim Justice has put a strong emphasis on promoting tourism across the state to boost economic development. CVB Executive Director Susan Riddle said the statewide “One more night, one more dollar” campaign to entice additional hotel stays and business patronage has paid off here.

“Your CVB actively works daily to advance tourism and build a great place for community and regional collaboration,” she said.

Year-over-year, she said, hotel occupancy and revenue has increased by 11.7 percent. During the past 12 months, 50,400 additional rooms were sold, generating more than $6.5 million in additional revenue and $394,000 in additional taxes.

The CVB’s annual report contains 2016 figures. At that time, statewide tourism spending was $4.141 billion, generating 44,650 jobs, $51.62 million in local taxes and $475 million in state taxes. The seven-county Mountaineer Country region — which includes Monongalia and Preston Counties — saw $418 million in spending, 5,300 jobs, $6.1 million in local taxes and $28.6 million in state taxes.

In Mon and Preston, spending was $198.4 million, generating 2,490 jobs, $2.8 million in local taxes and $13.5 million in state taxes.

Tourists can learn about local offerings and events at three CVB websites: tourmorgantown.com, tourpreston.com and tourmountainercountry.com.

The CVB capped the evening by presenting three awards.

The first was the Tourism Community Partner Award, recognizing a large commitment over time to the industry and the CVB. Sara Bishop and Pam Queen, part of the leadership of the Goodwill City Ambassador Program, received the award. Queen is also managing editor of The Dominion Post.

Goodwill City, Riddle said, was created to improve the hospitality and experience for visiting teams and fans at games. Good will City’s “relationships with WVU athletics, WVU Alumni Association, police and others continue to improve our visiting guests’ experience.”

The Star of the Industry Award recognizes going above and beyond in the tourism industry through projects to benefit tourism.

It went to Mary Wimmer, a retired WVU medical school biochemist who in October 2015 co-founded Morgantown Area Paddlers, a flat-water kayaking group. Since then, the group has held 116 free outings, Riddle said.

Accepting the award, Wimmer said, “It’s been a labor of love and lots of wonderful people involved.”

The final award, a new one, was the Mountaineer Country Region Award. The other Mountaineer Country counties are Marion, Harrison, Taylor, Barbour and Doddridge.

The award went to Bryan Smith, director of Taylor County Project HOP2E and founder of the Taylor County Adventure Club, which aims to promote tourism through outdoor adventure opportunities.

“In Taylor County we have so much to offer that no one has taken advantage of in the past several years,” Smith said. “I got tired of seeing everyone say there’s nothing to do here, nothing to do here.”

So he started the adventure club to promote Tygart Lake, the Grafton Mother’s Day shrine and other draws for Taylor County and the area.

Closing the night, Riddle announced the release of the new WVU Libraries Morgantown Public Art Guide – a glossy, stiff-paper pamphlet containing a map and key to indoor and outdoor art in downtown Morgantown, Evansdale and Star City.

Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp Email dbeard@dominionpost.com

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