PARKERSBURG - Representatives from Midwest motorcoach companies were in the area this week, taking in attractions that might be interesting to their clients.
The familiarization tour was in Parkersburg Thursday and in Marietta Wednesday. The tour companies represented were from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Mark Lewis, president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said these companies have the potential to bring hundreds of people to the area through bus tours and more.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Mark Lewis, president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, talks with representatives from tour companies at the Parkersburg Art Center Thursday. The officials were in Parkersburg for a familiarization tour at local attractions to determine if this was an area where they could book tours.
Tours were held at the Parkersburg Art Center, the Blennerhassett Museum, Holl's Chocolates, Coldwater Creek and the Smoot Theatre. They spent the night at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
Lewis also provided information about other attractions, such as Mister Bee Potato Chips, Henderson Hall, Mulberry Lane and Blennerhassett Island.
"These are motorcoach operators," he said. "They are looking for activities they and their clients would like. They have the potential to bring in hundreds of guests over time."
Most tourism advertising targets couples or families, but a tour like this can highlight local attractions that a motorcoach company would be interested in for their clients.
"A single motorcoach can bring in 50 people or so to the area at one time," Lewis said. "That can generate hundreds of visitor days in the area."
The tour also gives tourism officials some feedback on their attractions and how they are presented to guests who come in from out of the area.
"It allows us to have a conversation with people," Lewis said. "It allows us to show them what we have to offer, but learn from them what they think will sell.
"We are looking for feedback. 'Is this something that would work for your group? If not, how can we make it better?' We are looking for feedback to be able to sharpen that message and provide a better product and make them money as well," he said.
The tour group officials have liked what they have seen in the area, highlighting its historical points of interest as well as some of the more unique attractions.
"It has been great," said Kathy Hanes, director of Allendale Lifelong Learners in Allendale, Mich.
She plans trips for senior citizens.
"So far, so good," Hanes said. "We went to Holl's Chocolates. It was awesome. They gave us some good samples and we gave back by buying some, too."
She was interested in ghost stories connected to the Blennerhassett Hotel. She was delighted when she learned there were and was interested in learning more.
"I will sleep with the light on and one eye open," Hanes said.
Parkersburg and Marietta are about a day's drive for many of the companies.
"There is so much history here," Hanes said. "That is a huge draw."
Much of the interest was in the architecture, said Karen Pettyjohn, a tour manager with Sunrise Tours in Indiana, Kansas and Missouri.
She said the number of home tours conducted throughout the year.
"That is a big thing for a lot of people to see," she said adding being along the Ohio River also offers a lot of interest.
Many of their clients are seniors, said Jim Lewis of Timely Tours Inc. of Port Clinton, Ohio.
"We have to make sure that the places we go are senior friendly," he said.
It has to be accessible and easy for seniors to get around. They also look at issues like being able to get a bus to a particular location.
A tour like this really informs them about what is available in a particular area, Jim Lewis said. It is hard for them to get to an area on their own and they are not sure what to see when they get there.
"Everything we have seen has been really good," he said.