Civitas News Service
The Hatfield McCoy Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted a reception to give applicants for the Matching Advertising Partnership Program (MAPP) an opportunity to meet with several southern West Virginia legislators before the upcoming legislative session begins.
Representatives from Lincoln, Logan, Boone and Mingo Counties who attended the reception included Sen. Art Kirkendoll, Josh Stowers, Justin Marcum, Jeff Eldridge and Danny Godby.
MAPP is funded by video lottery revenues and is a dollar for dollar match with private industry. Since gaming was legalized in Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania, lottery revenues have decreased by $2.8 million, meaning funds are not available for many private sector entities wishing to promote tourism in West Virginia.
The legislature acted in 2008 to require $4.7 million annually reserved from MAPP to fund the Courtesy Patrol. MAPP applicants are asking legislators to consider restoring the $4.7 million to MAPP. The applicants include Boone County Community, Economic Development and Tourism Corp., Lincoln County Fairs and Festivals, Inc., Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, Hatfield McCoy Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Aracoma Story and the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Hatfield McCoy Trails Executive Director Jeffrey T. Lusk says this area needs that money back and more.
“As the interest in the trails has grown, interest in the feud has grown and as folks are going for more heritage tourism, the relevance of southern West Virginia as a tourism destination has grown. It has become something to help hold up our economy.” said Lusk, “We need a new Bill presented when the legislative session starts to find some ancillary money to flow into this program. The Courtesy Patrol is a great thing and should be kept, but we need to fully fund this program. It’s not only beneficial to us, it’s beneficial to the entire state.”
West Virginia University Agent Bill Richardson added his experience with a website he created three years ago.
“I created a website called hatfieldmccoycountry.com. I got a MAPP grant that paid 75 percent of the cost. That website gets 100,000 hits a day. It is the primary site to tell people how to get here. If you search the internet for Hatfield McCoy, this site and the trails site are the first to come up. MAPP grants have supported both of these sites. We just did a two-page advertisement in a travel guide that cost $14,000. Without the MAPP grant, we could never have afforded that,” said Richardson
The annual number of Hatfield McCoy Trail riders has increased from selling 5,000 permits to 35,000 since they opened in 2000. Lusk told the group 81 percent of the riders were overnight visitors from out of state.
Reports by the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association show annual tourism revenues are $4.3 billion; it involves over 1,400 small businesses, 44,000 jobs and $582 million in state and local taxes is generated, a 98 percent increase over the past ten years.
“These numbers come from a report by AECOM commissioned by the governor and approved by the W.Va. Legislature,” said West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association Executive Director Carol Fulks, “They are 2010 numbers and they don’t include restaurants or gas stations. They are pure tourism dollars.”
The representatives all expressed their support for the tourism industry and recognized all the time and effort that goes into its continued progress.
“What helps the elected officials here are a lot of auxiliary programs, people who work at the many agencies, volunteers and business people who serve on boards and give of their resources and time — it doesn’t get any better than that, said Sen. Kirkendoll, “ I think we can make Logan County and southern West Virginia the best it can be.”
The legislative session begins on February 14.