Last week, representatives from several Midwest motorcoach companies were in Parkersburg to visit the area's tourist locations for possible inclusion during the upcoming tour season.
The representatives, from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania seemed to like what they were shown, and, hopefully, many could be bringing in busloads of tourists in the months to come.
Sometimes it is easy to miss - or dismiss - the positive effect tourism has on the Mid-Ohio Valley's economy. We see the tour buses driving through the city, or unloading passengers at the Blennerhassett Hotel, but it is largely out of sight to the average Mid-Ohio Valley resident.
It is not out of sight to business owners. For them - and for the employees they hire - these buses represent revenue. The filled tables in restaurants, and the crowds around cash registers at stores bring in money that helps these businesses support themselves and their employees. It may not be a cracker plant, but it is an essential part of our economy.
Most of the people who travel on these bus tours are senior citizens. They come into a town, hit the sites, stay overnight and then go to the next town. They are attracted to this area because of businesses such as Holl's Chocolates, Coldwater Creek and the Smoot Theatre. The visitors also like historic locations, and we have plenty, such as Blennerhassett Island and Museum, the Oil and Gas Museum, Fort Boreman Hill and the newly renovated Point Park.
These attractions, which are also enjoyed by local residents, could be just the beginning.
During the past few weeks, we have heard many discuss the feasibility of things like a Frontier League Baseball team and a stadium where the team would play. We have heard others discuss bicycle and hiking trails that could be part of larger trail systems. Unfortunately, these ventures come with several hurdles, including cost, which are out of our control, and could, in the end, make them unattainable.
However, some of the hurdles are of the self-inflicted variety, in which suspicion and skepticism tamp down enthusiasm.
Parkersburg and Wood County can truly become a tourist destination - not only for out-of-state bus groups, but for people coming in for the day from Wirt, Calhoun, Tyler and other surrounding counties. For this to develop, however, there will need to be vocal support from the community at least equal to the volume of suspicion and skepticism from the naysayers.