Parkersburg CVB outlines improvements

PARKERSBURG – The Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau will be focusing on a variety of areas in the coming year, working to bring visitors and tourism to the Parkersburg area.

Mark Lewis, the bureau’s new president and CEO, spoke Monday to the Parkersburg Rotary at the Blennerhassett Hotel.

Lewis, who took over from longtime CVB president Steve Nicely last March, talked about the fundamental goals of the CVB.

“Basically, we’re a destination marketing agency,” he said.

“The mission is to bring people here” to Parkersburg, Lewis said.

Lewis spent years working with the whitewater rafting industry in West Virginia. After being hired in 2012, he worked with Nicely to learn about what Parkersburg has to offer.

Despite being a Parksburg native and graduate of Parkersburg High School, Lewis said he was still surprised by all the things there are to learn about the Parkersburg area.

One of the big accomplishments of the past year was the completion of a Civil War DVD about the local area’s history during that conflict, which brought about the creation of West Virginia due to the efforts of local leaders. The CVB is hoping to get it broadcast on Public Broadcasting in the future, he said.

Looking ahead, Lewis said there are five areas the CVB wants to work on during the new year. The first is a continuing focus on history and heritage, one of the main draws for the Parkersburg area with stops like Blennerhassett Island and Museum, the Oil and Gas Museum, Henderson Hall and the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.

Another area of focus will be group tours. The Mid-Ohio Valley was once a prime destination for those tours, but the loss of Middleton Dolls and Fenton Art Glass have greatly impacted that tourism segment locally, he said. The CVB will be working to come up with new ways to attract those tours to the area, Lewis said.

The third area will be outdoor recreation. Lewis said that is not a big focus in the area, but there are great opportunities like mountain biking at Mountwood Park, North Bend State Park and the Wayne National Forest in southeastern Ohio. As part of that, he wants to work with the Marietta/Washington County CVB on joint efforts.

“People don’t pay attention to invisible boundary lines,” he said.

The fourth area will be sports marketing, working to get more tournaments and activities to come to the area, he said.

Finally, the CVB will be focusing on motorcycle tours. During the past year, the CVB offered its support to the Thunder Road Madness motorcycle event in June in Williamstown.

One of the outgrowths of the CVB’s involvement in the event was the creation of a motorcycle tours brochure highlighting the local area and recommended motorcycle tours. Those brochures are a popular items at the CVB, he said.