Approximately 410 jobs connected to tourism exist in Upshur County alone, the executive director of the Upshur County Convention & Visitors Bureau said Wednesday.
Last year, the tourism industry in West Virginia brought in more than $5 billion, Laura Meadows said at the CVB's monthly meeting Wednesday, adding that $34.3 million of that direct tourism spending was isolated to Upshur County.
"It also tells me that where we're advertising is effective," Meadows said. "We are advertising to people who are within an easy driving distance, so hopefully we can get them for a day, but hopefully encourage them to stay for a couple nights.
"It makes a huge difference in Upshur County, and I think a lot of times we've heard through the state that tourism gets put on the back burner because it's not always considered a necessity," Meadows added, "but when you look at how much of an impact it has just in Upshur County, it's a big deal."
The still-under-construction conference center at the new National Guard Armory in Buckhannon could potentially help the county reel in more tourism through the hosting of business conferences and even weddings.
As the CVB eyes the anticipated early completion of the convention center, members are beginning to formulate a plan for the hiring of a new employee to help manage the facility's events, potentially increasing the number of tourism-related jobs in the county.
Meadows said the position could be advertised as early as January and would most likely be part-time. There is no complete and final job description for the position, but members discussed some possible options at the meeting.
Meadows said she would like the position to have flexible hours. She said the employee, who could be hired as early as March, should be able to work some weekends and evenings as necessary for the scheduled conferences and events.
The proposed employee would oversee the scheduling and coordination of the events and sometimes may even be involved in their planning.
Scheduled events, as per the requirements of the National Guard, must be self-insured. Members discussed the option of possibly creating a list of companies that can be accessed by those who need to seek insurance for their events.
Tourism in Buckhannon could further be enhanced by Travel South, a group traveling organization that covers 12 states. In January or February, the organization will be coming to Charleston for the first time when a tour bus of group travel planners will be traveling to West Virginia by bus. Meadows said the Upshur CVB will partner with the Clarksburg CVB and the North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg on an advertising campaign to market a return trip to West Virginia for those travelers filled with central West Virginia attractions.
"This is the first time that some of these people have ever stepped foot in the state," Meadows said.
The dates for two Upshur County Christmas events also were announced during the meeting. The Christmas parade in Buckhannon will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 6, and another parade, sponsored by Southern Upshur Business Association, will take place in Rock Cave at 1 p.m. Dec. 7.
Members also voted to give a $750 grant to the West Virginia Strawberry Festival to use for online ads and design and production of the 2014 festival brochure.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.