The Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently released their 2019/2020 annual report, illustrating the steps that have been taken over the last 12-months to help position the Greenbrier Valley as a premiere tourist destination.
The fall 2019 campaign was rather successful, indicating a 14% increase over 2018 in travel-interest to the Greenbrier Valley. The CVB, in partnership with the Greenbrier Valley Airport, the Greenbrier and the State Fairgrounds of West Virginia, commissioned a research study to assess the county’s practicality as a tourist destination. The results of this study were released to the public on February 26, 2020.
According to the research: “Greenbrier County has the ability to attract 459,000 to 817,000 more leisure travel parties to the area. With the average visitor party spending $1,515, our untapped growth potential is $650-million to $1.2-billion.”
The 2019 report also identified three major traveler profiles to the Greenbrier Valley region: affluent nature lover (average age 45, 68% male with outdoors as a way of life, income allows them to indulge in recreation and sports when traveling), culinary spender (average age 53, 58% female and more likely to travel with friends, high-earning and well-traveled consumers who opt for luxury features and upgrades) and culture and history seeker (average age 55, equally male and female, price conscious consumers enjoy a destination’s creative side and storied past).
In the CVB’s annual report, it is further explained that “the vibrancy study is clear to point out that Greenbrier County does not currently have the infrastructure to accommodate such growth. Still, over time and with long-term visioning and planning, the tourism opportunities are extraordinary for this community.”
However, March of 2020 brought with it the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and plans were quickly modified to address more immediate and unexpected area-concerns.
“Only a few short weeks later, we realized that life as we knew it would be changing forever. We quickly pivoted our marketing and communications strategy to support our businesses in any way that we could, keeping our website up to date on business closures and openings and encouraging our residents to support our Greenbrier County businesses,” Executive Director Kara Dense wrote in the opening statement of the CVB’s report.
“We’re really very focused on marketing the town. What we were trying to do with the study and the results of the study had kind of been pushed to the back burner, unfortunately,” Dense said.
She discussed the four-phase marketing approach the CVB began in May earlier this year.
“We started out by looking at just the locals because we saw such an extra need to support our local businesses and get the word out,” Dense said.
As the state slowly started to reopen, the CVB once again began to expand their scope.
“We have strategically expanded our message from local community day-trippers to overnight feeder markets, and this fall, to regional drive markets,” the CVB stated in its report. “The plan remains fluid as we balance the safety of our community with the economic value of tourism in Greenbrier County.”
Dense said that many tourists are in search of small towns, outdoor spaces and safe areas.
“People are looking at the protocols that West Virginia has in place. We’re all wearing masks, at our businesses and around town. And people who are wanting to get out of the house and travel are wanting to see those types of things in place,” Dense said.
Last week, Dense spoke to members of the Lewisburg City Council about the annual report stating that she has been seeing cars around town with license plates Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware and other states signifying that people are looking for safe places to travel to and that areas with low levels of COVID-19 numbers are more attractive.
“We’re very fortunate during this difficult time to be attracting visitors to our area,” Dense said.
Other highlights from the report include:
• The fall 2019 marketing campaign reached big audiences in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, IL;
• 24.3 million ads displayed in print and online;
• The CVB’s website received 56,862 clicks from a digital ad;
• They CVB had a reach of 260,708 in social media marketing and 16,000 interactions;
• And, there was 4,451 actions through digital activity showing travel intent to the Greenbrier Valley.