Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau names board

VIENNA — While tourism in Wood County began 2016 on a slight downturn things began to look up in November and December and continued into 2017.

Mark Lewis, president and CEO of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said November and December 2016 had more overnight stays than November and December 2015 and January 2017 surpassed January 2016.

During the bureau’s annual meeting Thursday at the Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna, Lewis said for the year the bureau is seeing a lot of traffic to the website promoting the Parkersburg area to a wider audience.

“In 2016 our website traffic was up by 5.8 percent, and the page views are way up, 35 percent, on our new website making it a fantastic resource,” he said.

Lewis added the fan base for the bureau on social media grew by 57 percent in 2016 ending the year with 5,418 fans and 360 followers on Twitter, which was up by 59 percent.

“It’s been a good year but unfortunately our hoteliers have had a tough time,” he said. “I’m very optimistic about the year, I think it will be a great year. Everything is coming back from that time when the gas drilling and exploration went away.”

Also in 2016, the bureau debuted three new web videos. Highlighted in the new series were Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, Fort Boreman Historical Park and the Parkersburg Art Center. Lewis said the series can be seen at CVB.

Lewis said the bureau has taken over the Paddlefest event which is set for the week after the Sternwheel Festival in September.

In 2017 Lewis said the bureau will focus on state parks.

“Very few areas in West Virginia have two state parks as close as Blennerhassett Island and North Bend State Park,” he said. “We are going to focus on Parkersburg as West Virginia’s weekend get away destination, that is what we want to push. Not only into Ohio, but West Virginia.”

Lewis said the parks need help to promote themselves due to the state budget cuts.

“We are going to work to help them get the word out,” he said. “Right now they are challenged because of the fiscal situation in the state. This is where the CVB can step up and step in to help them out.”

Lewis added the bureau said a thank you to long-time board member and former chairman Ed Hofmann.

“He’s been on the board for 20 years and he has finally stepped down,” he said. “He has been a rock and just such a great contributor to the mission of the CVB over the course of that time.”

New officers and board members for 2017 were introduced.

Elected as the chairman was Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch, who had been a member of the bureau’s board for the past six years. Couch follows Alan Hardway as the Chairman of the Board.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” Couch said. “The mission of the convention and visitors bureau is to highlight the attractions of Wood County.”

Couch said he also looks forward to working with Lewis.

“With a director the caliber of Mark Lewis, it makes it easy to be the chairman,” he said. “He has been here for five years, and while the last two have not been the best, we have seen signs of an upturn for three consecutive months instead of three consecutive months of downturns.”

Couch said with the new TownePlace Suites by Marriott joining The Blennerhassett Hotel and Hampton Inn in the city, it may help spur more interest in development.

Members of the board for 2017 are:

* Blair Couch, Wood County Commission, chairman

* Michael Gibson, Wingate by Wyndham, vice chairman

* Cal Malcom, Malcom and Associates, secretary

* Mike Day, Sunrise Family Restaurants, treasurer

* Alan Hardway, MPH Hotels, immediate past chairman

* Dan Curtis, Parkersburg Brewing Co.

* Patsy Hardy, S&P Harley-Davidson, Wood County appointment

* Linda Kern, City of Vienna, Vienna appointment

* Roger Lockhart, Camden Clark Medical Center

* Larry McIntire, The Blennerhassett Hotel

* Deborah Shaffer, Julia-Ann Historical Association

* E.K. Sleeth, Williamstown Bank, Williamstown appointment

* John Starkweather, North Bend Climbing Guides

* Kristi Steed, North Bend State Park

* Chad Winebrenner, Grand Pointe Conference Center

* Rickie Yeager, Parkersburg Development Director, Parkersburg appointment.