On the Move: Tourism Defies Challenges at W.Va. | Opinion

Here is some good news to report. New economic data from Charleston shows tourism in West Virginia is up 3.8% from pre-pandemic levels. While nationally tourism is still down 27% from 2019, West Virginia is moving in the right direction with visitors embracing the state’s many outdoor adventures.

The promising results come from the annual Economic Impact Research, released last week by Governor Jim Justice at the Governor’s Annual Tourism Conference. Research shows traveler spending in West Virginia topped $4.9 billion in 2021.

In addition to statewide data, the report shows that each of the state’s nine tourism regions saw growth in 2021. The report also found that visitor spending on accommodations was 723 million, an increase of 44.1% and that visitors who stayed on short-term rentals spent $176 million in 2021, an increase of 15.4%.

The research was prepared by Dean Runyan and Associates, a leading national firm for tourism economic research. Runyan economists have studied the impact of West Virginia’s tourism industry since 2000.

The data seems to reflect what we see locally. Mountain bike tourists always flock to the area to take advantage of our mountain bike trails.

“It doesn’t surprise me that our great state has once again risen above all others,” Justice said. “I want to commend the entire tourism industry for all of their hard work to help make this growth possible. I look forward to seeing our tourism industry continue to grow for many years to come.

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only challenge tourism officials have faced in recent months. Inflation, which is at its highest level in 40 years, and still stubbornly high gas prices have forced some to travel with curtains.

But even these economic challenges haven’t stopped some from seeking a vacation in the great outdoors.

“Our industry not only erased the impact of COVID-19, we actually did better last year than before the pandemic,” West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said. “Thanks to the overwhelming support of the governor, the determination and courage of our incredible industry, and our perfectly positioned state with great open spaces, we have been able to thrive despite the challenges the past few years have brought.”

Projections for 2022 suggest West Virginia could top $5 billion in travel spending for the first time in state history.

This is great news for our region, which in recent years has become a tourist destination for those looking for an outdoor getaway.