W.Va. tourism outpaces national growth by 58 percent

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A paddler in an inflatable kayak challenges the Dries of the New River.
A paddler in an inflatable kayak challenges the Dries of the New River. (Photo courtesy Adventures on the Gorge)

Governor Jim Justice announced today that West Virginia’s tourism industry grew for the second consecutive year in 2018. The two-year growth trend reverses years of decline and outpaces national growth by 58 percent, he said.

The finding comes from yearly economic impact research released just on the heels of the industry’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The research shows traveler spending in West Virginia grew at a rate of 6.5 percent totaling $4.55 billion in 2018.

Chelsea Ruby, Tourism Commissioner

“It’s an incredible time to be a West Virginian. This state is on the move, and so is our tourism industry,” Justice said.

“When I took office, I made tourism a top priority, because I knew it had all the potential in the world. All we had to do is find a way to tell our story, and we’re finally doing it.

“We have an absolute superstar in tourism commissioner Chelsea Ruby. I congratulate her and the entire tourism commission for all their hard work to help make this growth possible. I am committed to making sure our tourism industry grows for many more years to come!”

Under the Justice administration, traveler spending in West Virginia has grown 9.9 percent in just two years. Other key industry markers, including state and local tax revenue, and tourism-supported jobs were also up in 2018.

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“Thanks to Governor Justice’s leadership, tourism in West Virginia is taking off,” Ruby said.

“We have a brand new Almost Heaven advertising campaign in the market, and thanks to the buy-in and support from industry partners across the state, we’re seeing these gains everywhere we look.

“From economic impact to earned media, West Virginia’s is quickly becoming a top tourism destination.”

This two-year growth trend reverses a steady period of decline in the industry.

Travel-generated spending in West Virginia dropped more than 14 percent from 2012 to 2016. But 2017 reversed the trend, and spending grew by 3.9 percent outpacing the national growth rate.

The statewide increase nearly doubled in 2018. Traveler spending in West Virginia grew by 6.5 percent –outpacing the national growth rate by 58 percent.

In addition to statewide data, the research report shows that all nine West Virginia travel regions saw growth in traveler spending in 2018.

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.

To review the 2018 Travel Impacts Study in its entirety, .


W.Va. tourism official: new rafting run spectacular

A kayaker explores boulders in the Dries.

A new whitewater run that opens to commercial rafting in 2019 may not be a game-changer, but it will certainly enhance the game in one of the most popular rafting destinations in the eastern U.S., says a West Virginia tourism industry official.

The 5.3-mile run through a spectacular section of the New River Gorge formerly inaccessible to most tourists is ready-made for family-style trips and significantly expands offerings, says Dave Arnold.

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