Marketing tourism: Never a better time to be a small town

Susan Riddle is right, “We are better together.”
Some have it that the times when it was best to be a small town or a rural county are long gone.
You know, little to no broadband internet, no interstate and no malls these days translates into no visitors.
But if the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau’s CEO and president’s efforts to add Taylor County and the city of Grafton to its coverage area is any indication, small town Appalachia is back on the map.
Matter of fact, it would appear times have never been better for adding tourism to a rural county’s and a small railroad town’s economic mix.
Not to mention the benefits to the soon-to-be three-county region the GMCVB will be marketing for tourism.
We applaud this decision not only by the GMCVB but also the initiative by Grafton’s municipal leaders and the Taylor County Commission to request it.
Not only will this move give the GMCVB more attractions to market but it also can help Grafton and Taylor County become successful.
How does it help Taylor County and Grafton become more successful aside from encouraging a stream of tourists to visit its environs?
By encouraging that county and town to stay exactly who they are. No, by celebrating who they are.
To promote the Mother’s Day founder’s birthplace far and wide and to retell Grafton’s storied railroad history.
This move also helps to capture the opportunities created by an existing outdoor recreation destination in Taylor County— Tygart Lake State Park and all its amenities.
Though some think of tourism as all chain hotels, cookie-cutter restaurants and kitschy attractions, that’s untrue. Indeed, many tourists are looking for local restaurants, historic attractions from churches to train depots, bed and breakfasts and cabins and fun on a mountain lake.
The GMCVB is also looking to incorporate input from residents of Grafton and Taylor County by possibly adding one from each sector to its board of directors.
As such decisions go, it’s important to determine if there is a ready market for a service. In this instance, of interested visitors for an off the beaten path town and county as well as a small town and county interested in growing a tourism sector: We think the answer in both cases is yes.
We almost forgot. Though there are no plans for an interstate bisecting Taylor County or shopping centers springing up there, help’s on the way for broadband access.
This week, the Federal Communications Commission announced $1.2 million of a $6.5 million grant it’s providing to West Virginia to expand broadband internet is for extending services in Taylor County.
We’re excited to see Taylor County become more connected and more a part of this region than just its location.

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