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Promoting West Virginia Tourism

OVERVIEW

To increase tourism spending and drive visitors near and far to West Virginia, WV Forward and partners have assembled interdisciplinary teams of faculty and staff at WVU and Marshall University to determine innovative ways to promote West Virginia tourism. By overlaying West Virginia's unique assets with university resources, tourism needs and recommendations in the Blueprint, the teams are making inroads on how best to implement tourism-related opportunities statewide, from attracting second home owners and retirees, to drawing in first time visitors for longer periods of time and capitalizing on adventure tourism. 
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Tourism, Higher Ed Team Up to Showcase the Best of WV

Tourism Meeting

Stacking opportunities to grow tourism industry

Faculty and staff from both WVU and MU have been meeting since the inception of WV Forward to determine creative ways to boost tourism, support and elevate the work from the WV Tourism Office, enhance and improve community development efforts and showcase the best of West Virginia. 

During these internal meetings, faculty have not only become more familiarized with tourism-based research and projects among their peers, but have also considered new partnerships for current and future projects. 

Most importantly, these meetings have contributed to breaking down academic silos, creating synergy and offering new opportunities for knowledge sharing and multi-disciplinary and intra- and inter-departmental collaboration. 

Tourism Group

Unprecedented collaboration unfolds

A year in the making, West Virginia universities' and colleges' faculty and staff met with the WV Tourism Office in April 2019 to share multidisciplinary tourism projects, resources and research. From state marketing to community tourism development, new ideas popped up and gained traction. 

The Benedum Foundation's Mary Hunt facilitated a WV Forward workshop with over two dozen professionals joined together at the State Capitol to share joint projects that embody the Blueprint's findings, the goals of the Almost Heaven campaign, the universities' resources and state assets.

With enthusiasm high, participants identified research gaps and overlap, and discussed potential projects around asset inventory and mapping, trails, adventure tourism and “storytelling.”

Group members used this unique chance to connect, build relationships and explore partnerships to identify abundant opportunities on the road ahead. Collaborative project discussions are in the works now.

“The session proved that collectively exploring ideas produces great results. The discussions created fledgling partnerships and raised awareness about the substantial intellectual capacity which exists at the universities that can assist with tourism-based economic development. I look forward to faculty research, experiential learning for students, and other meaningful efforts which will emerge from the session.”

– Mary Hunt, The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation

Joint meeting main takeaways

  • Established a social network of faculty, staff and researchers* from West Virginia University, Marshall University, Concord University and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College who are working on tourism-based projects and putting together concrete ideas on how to transform the state.
  • Gave a platform for participants to share promising proposals for collaborative projects, which could be jointly implemented by WV Forward partners, and other powerful initiatives that are helping to move WV Forward, including apps and projects around asset inventory and mapping, trails, adventure tourism, “storytelling,” rebranding and showcasing West Virginia.
  • Ignited conversations around collaborative engagement, which could possibly support more competitive grant applications, as potential donors and funders look more favorably at broad-based collaborations, to fund transformational community development and tourism-based projects.
  • Produced additional opportunities for WVU and MU students to get hands on experience by working on real world challenges through the WV Tourism Office student requests.
WV Forward will be facilitating follow up conversations from the working groups/subgroups originated from the joint meeting and sharing updates on proposals for collaborative projects that were put together by working group members. More to come!

Higher ed students support WV Tourism goals

The WV Tourism Office has proffered student projects that select WVU and Marshall marketing, business and hospitality classes can take on to support their efforts and the Almost Heaven Campaign. The work includes creating public relations and marketing strategies, building comprehensive asset inventories, developing social media content and producing web videos. These experiential hands-on projects come on the heels of a successful pilot project between the Tourism Office and WVU Hospitality Management students developing online reservations and seasonal pricing regimes for state park facilities.

Read more about WVU Hospitality students presentations on tourism trends, best practices and suggested travel itineraries to the WV Tourism Office

Dr. Ajay Aluri, Founding Director of the Hospitality Innovation and Technology (HIT) Lab and Associate Professor in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program, continues to encourage students to learn about WV tourism opportunities.

“Let’s keep doing what we are doing right and increase demand, while also creating customized experiences for our visitors,” said Dr. Aluri. “As small as we are in West Virginia, we have a real opportunity to differentiate ourselves from neighboring states and become a smart destination. Today’s travelers want to stay connected. Let’s make that happen and ensure we are making the right connections to make the best experiences at the destinations and iconic events that will boost local economies and the industry."

WVU Hospitality faculty and students   Mary Hunt speaks to Marshall Faculty Tourism Meeting group

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*Citations available upon request.