Following an arduous application process, the Hardy County Convention and Visitors Bureau was granted accreditation by the West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.
“The West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus believes CVBs benefit from the accreditation process, as it better establishes them as credible, effective partners with their public/private sources and the tourism industry as a whole,” the approval letter said.
Hardy County CVB Executive Director Michele Mouré-Reeves presented the HCCVB 2019 Annual Report to the Hardy County Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 1. According to West Virginia state code, the CVB must present a report to the funding jurisdictions annually. In addition to Hardy County, the towns of Moorefield and Wardensville share funds with the Hardy County CVB.
“It was a rewarding experience to be recognized by your peers and to know that HCCVB’s efforts to effectively support Hardy County’s economy meet the professional standards of our industry,” Mouré-Reeves said.
The mission of the HCCVB is to promote awareness, visibility and the uniqueness of Hardy County as a travel destination. The CVB is governed by a board with representatives from the local tourism industry as directors.
There are three committees that focus on three areas of the local tourism. They are marketing, community outreach and special projects.
The Marketing Committee, while limited by budget constraints, initiated 17 print ads in nine different publications as well as eight different online ads on five different websites. “Our target areas include the DC Metro area, Maryland, central and western Virginia and West Virginia,” Mouré-Reeves said.
The HCCVB brochure has been widely distributed throughout the state and region. The purpose of the brochure is to drive traffic to the Hardy County CVB website.
In addition, two publications, which need updated, will be reprinted. The HCCVB gets numerous requests for the “Lost River Valley Map” and the “Hills of Blue and Gray.”
“Both pieces will be printed in 2019 or early 2020,” Mouré-Reeves said. “The South Branch/South Fork Valleys map was scheduled for publication in the fall of 2019, but will be postponed until 2020.”
Discussions about a regional travel guide have begun and will continue. “Mineral, Grant, Pendleton, Hampshire and Hardy counties all have limited budgets and a travel guide for each of us would be an expensive endeavor,” Mouré-Reeves said.
The “Ride the High 5” motorcycle map remains one of the HCCVB’s most requested travel brochure. As neighboring counties have struggled with staffing issues, the brochure distribution and updates have fallen to the responsibility of Hardy County. “This will be resolved as each county fills their vacant positions,” Mouré-Reeves said.
A recent challenge, Mouré-Reeves said, is getting local organizations to post their events on the HCCVB website. “The comment we hear most is that they feel they get better response through Facebook,” she said.
Both the Marketing Committee and the executive director are working to better optimize the website, establish a blog with local stories and travel itinerary ideas and increase social media postings that link to the website.
Mouré-Reeves is working with the town of Moorefield to locate a Visitor’s Center at the Higgins House on Winchester Avenue. The house, built in 1787, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered the oldest structure in Moorefield.
In July, the town received a grant from the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office to replace the roof and repair the foundation. “In partnership with the town, the HCCVB will construct a small addition to the west side of the house for a restroom, a small kitchen and space for storage and utilities,” Mouré-Reeves said. “We anticipate occupancy in 2020.”
In the meantime, several local business across the county have agreed to serve as “satellite travel centers” with literature for travelers. They include businesses in Lost River, Wardensville and Moorefield.
The Community Outreach Committee oversees the Tourism Advertising Program Grants which provide direct assistance to tourism businesses with grants for advertising and rack cards.
“The problem is the grants are not getting used,” Mouré-Reeves said. “We would like to see more businesses apply.”
The Special Projects Committee selected the Barn Quilt Project as one of its projects in 2018. “We are very pleased to see it flourish and grow,” Mouré-Reeves said.
Under the management of the Lost River Educational Foundation, six barn quilts have received grant support to date. The LREF’s first completed Barn Quilt was installed at Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College.
“While the HCCVB does not manage projects, we provide support by sharing research and assisting in the planning and implementation of projects,” Mouré-Reeves said.
According to the West Virginia Office of Tourism, for every $1 spent on tourism advertising, the state receives $8 in state and local tax revenue and $106 in direct traveler spending.
Since many travelers use social media and online applications, the lack of dependable and consistent WiFi and cell phone service has become a disadvantage. Mouré-Reeves acknowledged Hardy Telecommunications efforts to improve connectivity, “access to reliable cell phone service seems to remain an impenetrable issue,” she said.
Finishing the eastern section of Corridor H, or the Mountain Skyway as Mouré-Reeves refers to it, remains a challenge to the tourism industry in Hardy County.
The HCCVB recently sent a letter to