A nearly year-long effort to improve the promotion of Jefferson County's tourism saw another boost Thursday when Jefferson County Commissioners voted 4-1 to grant an additional $150,000 to the Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB) for marketing.
Interim CEO John Whisenant provided commissioners with the results of a recent study indicating that Jefferson County saw tourists spending approximately $769.6 million in the county in 2010. Those numbers placed Jefferson County at the top of the tourist-spending area in the state of West Virginia with Kanawha County coming in nearly $200 million less.
Whisenant's presentation told commissioners what the CVB has been doing to improve those numbers as well as what they are doing to lobby against such things as Maryland gaming which could have a dire affect on gaming visitation to Jefferson County.
Whisenant shared that in addition to the spending dollars, tourism in Jefferson County 7,170 jobs were in existence in 2010 in the hospitality and tourism field. Approximately 35 percent of the jobs in the county fall in these categories, according to the study done by the West Virginia Division of Tourism and prepared by Dean Runyan & Associates.
Whisenant, along with members of the CVB Board of Directors, approached the county seeking additional funding for marketing purposes.
"For a community that's generating $700 million a year in tourism, to have an $800,000 a year overall budget...we just can't compete," Whisenant said. The CEO sought an additional $150,000 to use specifically to market the area.
"We see any additional funds as an investment on your part," Whisenant said. He went on to say that any funds spend will be brought back into the community through tourism.
His thoughts were echoed by CVB Board Chair Annette Gavin who told commissioners that the CVB was simply seeking to get back a little of the money brought into the county by tourism and to use it to generate additional income for the county.
"I truly believe these are our dollars that we've generated, the tourism dollars, and I think we should be first in line to ask for some of that reinvestment back," Gavin said.
The CVB currently receives funding generated by the county's hotel/motel tax. Fifty percent of those dollars go into the county CVB budget. In addition the JCCVB has partnered with Harpers Ferry and Charles Town and receives funds from those municipalities. Currently Ranson and Shepherdstown maintain their own visitor's bureaus although Whisenant said he has hopes that Ranson will join in a county-wide CVB.
Cheryl Keyrouze, director of the Shepherdstown Visitor's Center, was on hand to commend the efforts of Whisenant and the revised JCCVB board. The efforts by that group will benefit the entire county as they reach to market to additional areas.
The commissioners initially voiced agreement that the funds would be an investment; however, they were not ready to commit those funds until they could determine from where they would come. In the later afternoon portion of the meeting, the group addressed an agenda item placed by Dale Manuel to deposit $200,000 of unencumbered funds into a capital account. Rather than commit those funds to a capital project, the commission late in the day voted 4-1 to approve the $150,000 request to the CVB with the additional $50,000 going to aid the Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County.