Tourism Summit offers chance to learn as local industry prepares for busy summer | Journal-news

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SHEPHERDSTOWN – The weather hasn’t even fully warmed up yet and Jefferson County is already seeing signs of the summer months as it continues to be a tourist destination.

Visitors are already seen flocking to local trails and towns, and local businesses, like the Bavarian Inn, are already booking for the warmer months. The Bavarian already has many rooms and events booked for this summer.

“I see some of our traders and talk to the restaurants in Harpers Ferry, and they are already doing so well. It’s amazing,” said Jefferson County Visitors and Convention Bureau CEO Annette Gavin Bates, adding that she expects record numbers this year.

She and others in the industry have taken marketing leaps – including a mini-guide inserted into The Washington Post by the JCCVB recently – and those in the field are also taking the time to learn. each other with the return of the Tourism Summit, scheduled for May 18.

This will be one of the first times local tourism industry leaders have had the opportunity to network and converse since the COVID-19 pandemic, taking time to learn from each other and from the past tumultuous years.

“It’s really exciting because there are a lot of our partners in this industry who have had so many ups and downs,” Bates said. “I know it’s similar across the board, but as we all talk about it all the time, the tourism industry has sometimes been a feast or a famine for us. It’s really, really exciting to be able to come together in person and have real discussions about the nature of the industry, what sets us apart, how we can change and improve. Everyone knows there is a new normal, so what is this new normal for tourism really about? »

She stressed the importance of emerging from the pandemic and maintaining Jefferson County as one of the state’s top tourist destinations, noting the recent Runyan report on the impact of travel in the state, which saw Jefferson County has the highest visitor spending among the 55 counties.

“We knew that, and this report shows the 2020 numbers, it solidifies the 2019 numbers and starts to talk about how even though we were going through the pandemic, we all still saw this wave of visitors coming to these great outdoors at Harpers Ferry, the way Jefferson County was always on the verge of bringing so many people back,” Bates said. “A lot of these companies were just trying to figure out how to get out and about during a pandemic.”

Bates said the next phase of things for the local tourism industry is to learn from the past few years and grow, to find ways to remain a unique and authentic destination, to remain the destination county n #1 in the state.

“Everyone is going to think the same thing. How can we move forward and be No. 1 in any region, in any field? says Bates. “Every state is trying to be that destination , and I think our (West Virginia Department of Tourism Cabinet Secretary in Chelsea) Ruby has done an amazing job of really bringing West Virginia to the fore. “move on and stay on top because we don’t want to lose our share of the attention and our part of what makes us so special. We know we’re special; we just have to keep telling people we’re special.” Once they come here, it sells easily; they see it, they get it, they love it.

So far, the summit has 75 registered attendees, spanning new and old county businesses and a diverse amount of business types. Bates is eager to see how the various businesses will find ways to work together to maintain what Jefferson County is all about and remind visitors why they want to be here.

“I think that was one of the big takeaways is that even during the pandemic, we’ve continued to keep West Virginia in the back of your minds and in your hearts, ‘I still want to go. when the time is right’,” she said. “We haven’t let up on the pedal so much that you’ve forgotten about us. I think that’s what’s important. We all know how to live here locally, we’ve seen the visitors come, but the locals, I think we’ve created more local loyalty.

The day will provide people with the opportunity to chat and network before the session begins at 9:00 a.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

Danny Twilley of West Virginia University and AscendWV will host a panel entitled “Outdoor Recreation Economy as a Driver for Tourism” and a marketing panel with local industry leaders including Steven Keith, Senior Director of Content, Miles Partnership; Nikki Bowman Mills, Editor/Editor, New South Media; Nikki Butler, founder of Butler Design; Nedra McDaniel, founder of the Adventure Mom blog; and Jim Starr, Regional Vice President/S=Success Brand, Media One, highlights the morning.

At noon, Ruby will serve as the pre-lunch keynote speaker, and things will pick up in the afternoon with Buddy Butler’s “Promoting Our County as a Destination,” Richie Heath’s “WVHTA and You: Member Benefits,” “Building an Authentic Experience in Jefferson County” and “History in the Making” by Laurel Ziemianski, which will focus on the Hill Top House Hotel.

“The expertise for this summit, I’m so proud of the people speaking and providing their knowledge,” Bates said. “It’s going to be a very, very good day, I think.”

Bates thanked all the sponsors, without whom the event would not be possible.

The event will last from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bavarian Inn. Tickets are available for $85 on Eventbrite.

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