Gov. Justice cites increase in tourist spending

Photo Provided West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday attended the 2018 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Morgantown. Tourism is growing in the state, speakers said.

MORGANTOWN — Research from a West Virginia travel impacts study shows traveler spending in the state grew at a rate above the national average in 2017, 3.9 percent compared to 3 percent, according to speakers Wednesday at the 2018 West Virginia Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Morgantown.

The increase, cited in tourism economic impact research released Wednesday, reverses a four-year decline in travel-generated spending in the state. From 2012 to 2016, spending dropped by more than 14 percent, or $695 million.

Leon Aliski of Dean Runyan Associates, a national firm for tourism economic research, presented details of the 2017 West Virginia Travel Impacts study Wednesday.

“The governor’s vision for tourism is already paying dividends,” said Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby. “With our state’s natural beauty and abundance of activities, tourism should be a growth industry. Last year, it finally was. Under the governor’s direction, we’re looking forward to more progress in 2018.”

Tourism industry representatives from across West Virginia are in Morgantown this week for the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which includes education seminars and industry updates and the 2018 Stars of Almost Heaven Awards Dinner.

“This is a landmark day for our tourism industry and our economy as a whole,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement.

Held at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place and hosted by the West Virginia Tourism Office, the annual event provides an opportunity for tourism industry partners to come together to discuss promoting West Virginia as a destination.

“Sessions are designed to provide partners with educational and training opportunities on the latest trends and issues in the tourism industry, as well as dedicated time to network and collaborate on ways to work together to showcase West Virginia on a local, regional and national scale,” Ruby said.