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Charleston tourism efforts intensify

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau hope an aggressive new marketing campaign will help lure visitors to West Virginia's capital city.

At the bureau's annual organizational meeting on Wednesday, members were told the visitors bureau has a new website, a new media ad campaign, and a new marketing plan.

Members of the visitors bureau heaped praise on bureau president Alisa Bailey, finishing up her first year on the job. "The marketing plan is a real marketing plan," said Yeager Airport director and visitors bureau member Rick Atkinson.

"If you look back at where we were, versus where we are, it's night and day," said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones. "New leadership works."

The bureau has adopted a new marketing plan that specifically targets the National Boy Scout Jamboree, scheduled to take place in Fayette County July 15-24. Officials are expecting 40,000 to 50,000 Boy Scouts and their support network to descend on the Mount Hope area for the Jamboree.

Visitors Bureau Vice President Jama Jarrett said Beckley and Fayetteville don't have enough hotel rooms to handle the expected influx of people for the Jamboree. "We know we're going to get some guests," Jarrett said. "We just aren't sure how many there's going to be."

Since many Scouts and their parents will have to stay in Charleston for the Jamboree anyway, visitors bureau staff decided to roll out the red carpet and show off all the area has to offer.

Bailey and Jarrett said travelers flying into Yeager for the event will be greeted with information booths telling them all about Charleston and the area and touting the city's selling points. Other information booths will be set up around town, and visitors will find out about opportunities to visit the Clay Center, Appalachian Power Park and other destinations.

Special Scout-themed events and promotions also will be going on. Jarrett said the National Boy Scout Jamboree Band would perform at Live On the Levee, which is going on at the same time as the Jamboree.

"What we're doing is capitalizing on what we've already got going on," Jarrett said. "It's going to be a couple of Boy Scout-themed weekends. We'll see how it goes."

Bureau staff plan a similar approach to the state's sesquicentennial celebration, also planned for this summer.

The visitors bureau recently had a quirky advertising video shot featuring an Abraham Lincoln impersonator checking out the sights, driving around town with Mayor Danny Jones and hanging out at local restaurants and other establishments. The ad is designed to lure visitors to town for the state's 150th anniversary.

Members of the visitors bureau are also pinning high hopes on the bureau's new "I'm Charlie West" advertising campaign. The campaign features prominent local citizens and is intended to show the many sides of the Charleston community.

Bailey said the new marketing campaign would rely more heavily on social media to help spread the word about what Charleston has to offer.

A new Internet website seems to be working, because the number of new visitors has jumped from about 6,400 the month before the new site made its debut to almost 12,000 in the month after it came online. Bailey said local residents were tweeting pictures of Abraham Lincoln and talking about the impersonator on Facebook before the ad campaign became public knowledge.

Bailey and Jarrett hope the "Charlie West" campaign will get city residents involved in touting the city from the inside out, spreading the word through word of mouth and social media. "If this is going to work, we all have to buy into it," she said.

Jarrett echoed the sentiment.

"We want to engage the community," she said.

"We want the community to get behind this brand of 'Hip, Historic ... Almost Heaven, Charleston, West Virginia,'" she said, referring to the city's new marketing motto.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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