- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (AP) - Local cuts to marketing budgets like those made by Fayetteville Town Council earlier this month could pose a “significant challenge” for any community, especially one so intertwined with the outdoor tourism industry.

“Any time marketing funds are cut, it poses a significant challenge,” said State Division of Tourism Commissioner Amy Goodwin. “The entire City of Fayetteville has exactly what the rest of the state has - folks that have a true passion for travel and tourism.”

There is no question that research shows a significant return on investments in strategic marketing, she said.

Council voted to cut $8,000 of supplemental marketing funds to the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau at a Sept. 14 meeting. In the past, the town has approved additional funds for more rigorous advertising opportunities.

In 2014, the CVB spent $26,497 for marketing.

“Our lodging tax meets our basic needs for marketing, but we have an ambitious plan where we go beyond that and market to areas with larger audiences,” said CVB director Sally Kiner. “I can still advertise, but I’m not going to be able to make us more competitive than previous years or give us some of those supplemental campaigns.”

She said she had hoped to capitalize on the Create West Virginia conference this month with additional marketing efforts, but advertising is not cheap.

A full page ad in the 2016 State Travel Guide costs $8,199, a half-page ad is $3,299, and one-sixth page ad is $1,749.

She said she appreciates council’s willingness to sponsor the Bridge Day Chili Cook-Off, which draws Bridge Day attendees into the downtown Fayetteville, but also hopes they will research the benefits of investing in tourism - including a benefit to the town’s overall budget.

Lodging tax made up nearly $93,000 of Fayetteville’s 2015 budget, half of which supports Fayetteville Town Park and half to the CVB.

The local CVB uses these local lodging funds to market the Town of Fayetteville. Without the local CVB, those tax dollars would go to the New River Gorge CVB and would be shared across the entire region and neighboring municipalities.

According to the 2012 Division of Tourism Study, $80.4 million was spent directly by tourists in Fayette County and $933,000 was generated in local taxes.

Tourism supports 790 jobs in Fayette, according to the survey.

In a joint written statement, Lafayette Flats co-owners Amy McLaughlin and Shawn Means said they were disappointed by the town’s decision to cut marketing support.

“Sometimes it seems that the council doesn’t have an awareness of how many businesses in town are tourism-based or tourism-enhanced; Even Wal-Mart’s decision to locate in a town of 3,000 was no doubt influenced by the promise of the additional tourist population,” they said. “The council doesn’t seem to understand how much we all depend on each other to market the area to potential visitors.”

The owners explained that individual businesses don’t have the power to attract visitors, but jointly, they become a place for activities, dining, culture and history.

“The CVB is uniquely situated to market on behalf of these diverse interests and to have an impact on the entire community. The timing of this decision is particularly frustrating because the Create West Virginia conference has presented us with a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and increase interest in tourism for our area. The message that the town council is sending is that it doesn’t value visitors and the businesses that serve them,” they said.

Water Stone Outdoors co-owner Maura Kistler said, as a small business, they don’t have advertising funds to market themselves regionally.

“We rely on our town, county and state to help us reach a larger market,” she explained. “I don’t see that as us propping up or subsidizing tourism because it yields so much for our town. Once we get a tourist here, we take it from there, and we show them a great time. We win their hearts, but having that system to help get them here is crucial.”

Until the county is better able to diversity its economy, and with the decline in coal severance tax, Kistler said tourism in the key to staying afloat.

“Tourism is currently the best way we can drive our economy in light of our current economic condition, and marketing is, pure and simple, the best way to do that,” she added. “I believe our leadership is misguided, and I hope we can continue to have conversations about it.”


Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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