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Visit Mountaineer Country visits Star City to discuss partnership

STAR CITY — A representative of Visit Mountaineer Country Convention and Visitors Bureau appeared at Star City Council’s meeting Tuesday evening to discuss concerns that the town has expressed regarding its partnership with the agency.

President and CEO of Visit Mountaineer Country CVB Susan Riddle addressed council during the special presentations and speakers segment of the meeting.

She said that she was visiting Star City because Mayor Herman Reid had reached out to her and said that he wasn’t sure the town was seeing the value of the services offered by Visit Mountaineer Country CVB.

Riddle said that Visit Mountaineer Country is a destination tourism marketing agency that works with Preston, Taylor and Monongalia counties. The agency has been working to bring money into towns and municipalities in those counties, including Star City.

“It’s not cannibalizing the dollars already here,” she said.

The agency, Riddle said, is primarily funded by lodging tax dollars — not from vacations, but from travel- and event-based lodging in Monongalia County. She referenced the Mountaineers, who bring traffic and amenities to the area.

“There’s a lot of work in bringing these groups to our area,” she said.

Riddle said that there are a lot of things that the agency does to promote Star City and the other towns it serves, but much of that advertising isn’t immediately visible in Star City. Much of the physical advertising done by the agency is strategically placed hours away to attract overnighters to the area.

She said that Monongalia County is not the easiest place to get to, but offers lots to do.

Tourism-related businesses in Star City, as well as in other municipalities in the tri-county area that Visit Mountaineer Country serves, are promoted on the agency’s website, Riddle said.

Riddle added that that website drives “hundreds of thousands” of users each year, aided by giveaways that the agency hosts to drive engagement.

She then asked what Visit Mountaineer Country CVB could do to satisfy the issues that Star City has with the agency.  

“We’re here to connect the dots,” she said.

Star City Council member Sharon Doyle addressed the notion that Visit Mountaineer Country CVB is funded by lodging dollars. She said that Star City has only one functioning hotel, with another only “partially functioning.”

Star City has restaurants but is soon losing Texas Roadhouse. It has no museums or other similar attractions.

Doyle said that the only thing that Star City really has to offer is its weekly farmers market, and the town needs help promoting it.

“We’d like to get a lot more traffic coming through there,” she said.

Riddle said that Visit Mountaineer Country does advertise the market, but not always in a traditional, roadside sign way. She said that farmers markets are of interest to society as a whole right now, and the agency is willing to work with Star City to do more advertising related to the farmers market.

Doyle proposed the idea of incorporating the Star City farmers market Facebook page into Visit Mountaineer Country’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, council member Cindy Baniak-Ulrich was concerned about ads which indicate that the farmers market takes place in Morgantown rather than Star City.

“It’s not in Morgantown, it’s Star City,” Ulrich said.

Riddle said that the farmers market is advertised that way due to brand awareness. She said that “Morgantown” has increased searchability in comparison to “Star City.” This drives traffic and recognition among online users.

She said that this is just the way digital systems in general work, but that Visit Mountaineer Country is advocating to advance location-related information.

“Every day it reinvents itself,” Riddle said.

Reid said that he was glad that Riddle visited Star City and listened to the concerns of the town.

“You’re well-versed in this,” he said of Riddle’s knowledge of online advertising and promotion in relation to tourism.

Reid suggested that the town and representatives of Visit Mountaineer Country CVB could set up another time to further discuss their partnership.

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