Social media campaign encourages West Virginia tourism

PARKERSBURG — A social media campaign to encourage tourism in West Virginia and coinciding with the state’s 156th birthday will kick off Friday.

From Friday through June 20, West Virginia Day, the seven-day challenge is aimed at inspiring travel to West Virginia through daily themes and the hashtag #AlmostHeaven. Tourism attractions around the state have donated vacations as giveaways for lucky participants.

“It’s a great initiative,” said Mark Lewis, director of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I wholeheartedly support the effort.”

The challenge is a great way to showcase what West Virginia has to offer, Lewis said.

“I’ve been saying for years that we have got to tell our story,” Gov. Jim Justice, who owns The Greenbrier Resort, said. “We live in the most beautiful place in the world. Why on earth would you want to go anywhere else? We’ve got it all right here, and we’ve got to do a better job of telling people about everything wonderful in West Virginia.”

President Abraham Lincoln by proclamation created the state of West Virginia on June 20, 1863, during the Civil War, separating the western region from Virginia.

Social media users are asked to follow the themes each day and publicly post their photos and memories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #AlmostHeaven.

The Tourism Office each day will give away West Virginia activity passes and vacations, including several grand vacation packages for those who participate in the campaign all week long.

“We’ve had some smash-hit social campaigns the last few years using the hashtag #AlmosthHeaven,” Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby said. “With West Virginia’s 156th birthday quickly approaching, we’re asking for your help again. It’s time to celebrate America’s best-kept secret with seven days of wall-to-wall West Virginia on social media.”

Each day’s themes are:

* Friday: Share a fond memory of #AlmostHeaven

* June 15: What’s the best #AlmostHeaven scenic view?

* June 16: Post a photo of your favorite #AlmostHeaven season.

* June 17: Tell us your favorite #AlmostHeaven adventure.

* June 18: Share your favorite #AlmostHeaven place to escape.

* June 19: Post your favorite #AlmostHeaven waterfall.

* June 20 : Happy Birthday, West Virginia! Tag a friend you’d like to visit #AlmostHeaven.

To be eligible for the daily giveaways, participants must set their challenge posts to public and enter to win on WVtourism.com/WVDay. Participants who publicly post and enter online all seven days of the challenge will be eligible to win the grand vacation prizes on West Virginia Day.

This year’s social challenge includes a way for West Virginia businesses to get in on the celebration. Businesses can show their love of the state and local communities by participating from their official social channels as well as encouraging their employees to participate each day. Participating businesses will be featured on the Tourism Office’s website.

Businesses can register as official participants and download a tool kit at WVTourism.com/WVDay.

Tourism represents a $4.3 billion industry in West Virginia, generating $519 million in state and local taxes and supporting more than 45,000 jobs for West Virginians.