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Consolidated visitors bureau makes sense for us

As West Virginia strives to become more of a tourist attraction, it seems logical that we need to invest resources to promote the many wild and wonderful aspects we enjoy here in the Mountain State.

In North Central West Virginia, we're fortunate to have many attractions that we've grown to accept as commonplace. We look around us and see home; others look around and see things they have only dreamed of.

We can't lose sight of that -- that we do have something to offer big-city urbanites.

We also can't lose sight of the fact it takes money and effort to get the word out -- we need to do more promotional work, not less.

Word that the Bridgeport/Clarksburg Visitor's Bureau is in danger of collapse is troubling. Money for the agency's promotional activities comes from hotel taxes collected by cities.

Bridgeport has decided it is in its best interest to form its own promotional bureau. That decision will take nearly two-thirds of the current bureau's budget.

Clarksburg is also considering forming its own agency, a decision that would leave the current visitor's bureau with little money.

The question remains: Who will take care of the tourist attractions located outside of Bridgeport and Clarksburg?

While it is easy to look at boundary maps to determine what's Bridgeport, what's Clarksburg, what's this and what's that, it's more difficult to measure tourism's economic effect for each area.

For instance, the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg obviously attracts business to hotels, restaurants and stores in Bridgeport, Shinnston and other Harrison County communities.

Likewise, the Benedum Festival in Bridgeport likely provides crossover dollars into Clarksburg's or Shinnston's economy.

As we continue to strive to improve economic conditions in North Central West Virginia, it's important that our leaders look past territorial tendencies and see that what's good for one area will likely have at least some type of positive impact on the others.

When it comes to tourism, we have a lot to offer.

When it comes to figuring out how best to promote it, we have a lot to learn.

Let's hope whatever groups emerge to promote our newest industry don't lose sight of the big picture.

John G. Miller

Telegram Editorial Board member

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