Visitors Center attracts 19K to Randolph

ELKINS – More than 19,000 guests visited the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitor Center in the last year. That was one of many facts presented by Chelley Depp, president of the RCCVB, in her annual report to the Randolph County Commission.

Depp reported an average of 18 calls requesting travel information were received per day during the 2013-2014 period.

She said the CVB website has had 11,191 visitors since September, more than 85 percent of them for the first time.

The top five states visiting the website were West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

On social media, the CVB Facebook page showed a 12 percent increase from the previous year. Of 1,159 fans of the page, 72 percent are female, 27 percent are male and 23 percent are between 45-54 years old.

After Elkins, the top cities visiting the site included Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; Charleston and Buckhannon. CVB staff post to the page several times a day to keep fans updated on events.

“We try every year to be very prudent and very diligent with the funds that we receive from the city and the county,” Depp said during this week’s County Commission meeting. In the last year, the lodging or hotel/motel tax generated $135,000 for the organization. The lodging tax is a 6 percent tax applied to all sleeping rooms rented by hotels and motels.

The collected money is split equally between the CVB and the county. In Elkins, the city retains half the money, with the other half split between the CVB and the Elkins Depot Welcome Center.

Depp explained that while the CVB does receive funds through the state Department of Commerce’s Tourism Matching Advertising Partnership Program or MAPP, those funds are decreasing each year. The amount for the past year was approximately $46,000. She cautioned those funds will probably not be available next year for individual grants and projects that promote a single entity, like Randolph County.

She said grants for projects such as the “33 Things to do on Route 33 in West Virginia,” which partners the Randolph County CVB with its counterparts in Lewis and Upshur counties, may still receive funding grants. Randolph County features 11 of the many stops in the county guaranteed to thrill the family.

Another example she cited is the Mountain Music Trail, which promotes the traditional music, dance and folkways of Monroe, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Randolph and Tucker counties.

During the past year, Depp reported the CVB made direct marketing grants to promotional projects for groups such as the Gandy Dancer, the Randolph County Community Arts Center and the Randolph County Fair. They also sponsored various events in the area, including the Tygart Valley Corn Hole Tournament, the Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade and the Rhythm & Wine Festival in Beverly.

A large part of the promotional efforts of the CVB include participating in travel shows. In partnership with the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad, they attended the Washington, D.C., Travel Show and the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show.

Packets of information were mailed out to all the leads and contacts made at those shows. Inquiries from the CVB’s placed advertising included 150 from Tour Operators, 159 from the American Bus Association, 2,514 from the West Virginia Travel Guide and 250 from Endless Vacations.

Depp thanked Executive Director Brenda Pritt and Administrative Assistant Debbie Trupo for the promotions they’ve secured, and the deals they’ve found in order to make the dollars stretch as far as they can.

Depp said without the MAPP Grant “it’s going to be a more creative tap dance to stretch those dollars.” She also thanked the Commission for the funding they provided to add an additional public restroom to the Welcome Center, along with a conference room for use in meeting with advertisers as well as staff.

Depp closed her report by asking the Commission to consider more funding for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“If you could look at the hotel/motel tax coming in and give us a couple percentages more,” she asked, saying “learning to budget without that (MAPP) grant, we’re trying to do some creative projects that will make the dollars stretch.

“Things are going well in tourism in Randolph County. With the money we get, we’ll keep pulling them in,” Depp said.