As West Virginia tourism officials celebrate increases in hotel occupancy, the numbers in Monongalia and Preston counties outpace even the state’s rise. Gov. Jim Justice recently touted a 16.1 percent increase in statewide hotel occupancy comparing June 2018 to June 2017. The local area has enjoyed a 17.9 percent hike in that same comparison, said Susan Riddle, executive director of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We put a pedal to the metal since the beginning of last year, and we haven’t looked back,” Riddle said, adding that she can look at any month and see an upward trend in bookings. Justice also said there was a 20 percent revenue increase in a year-over-year comparison to June 2017. In Mon and Preston, revenue was up 20.2 percent June over June. Every region of the state has seen increases, Justice said, with the first two quarters of 2018 showing hotel occupancy up 11.7 percent, with revenue growth of 14.9 percent.
“One of my first decisions in office was to launch a new tourism campaign that would spread that message like never before,” Justice said July 25. “West Virginians should be proud of what we’ve done here, because it takes all of us, telling our story and rolling out the welcome mat, to make this happen.”
“From day one, the governor had a vision for what could happen with West Virginia tourism,” said state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby. “The success we’ve seen this year is a direct result of that vision and the governor’s commitment to growing our tourism industry. Tourism means jobs, and the numbers that the governor released today translate into more West Virginians working in a sector that still has enormous room to expand.”
STR, a global hotel research company, reported the statewide hotel occupancy rates. In Mon and Preston counties, there has been a significant increase since January 2017. Riddle said that means jumps in all categories from occupancy to revenue to demand. Mon and Preston have 28 lodging properties combined, resulting in 2,600 rooms available daily. Filling up those rooms with travelers generates sales tax dollars.
“We target everything we do. Our mission is one more night, one more dollar. It’s as simple as that. We don’t need to make it any more complicated,” Riddle said. “For every $100, CVB receives $3. It’s not just about people spending the night to go ahead and generate lodging tax, it’s what are they doing while they’re here.”
That entails looking at the four types of tourists Riddle claims frequent this area:
Adventurers and explorers (the largest group),
“For us, our big draw, we have a synergy that is the combination of a lot of different benefits,” Riddle said. “We sell our region. We connect our local area with our audience.”
BY AMANDA SAVAGE DEPROSPERO, The Dominion Post