Southern West Virginia has recently been the focus of dozens of travel stories authored by members of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (#SATW).
According to a press release from Mona Mesereau, of Denver-based Mesereau Public Relations, the interest generated by the stories is having a real impact, helping fuel a big increase in visits to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and an uptick in hotel reservations for those wanting to book a trip to the country’s newest national park.
The stories were prompted by the journalists’ experiences during a five-day conference in mid-May. It was the first meeting in West Virginia in the history of the prestigious 64-year-old organization, and the first since Covid-19 vaccinations became widely available.
While in Southern West Virginia, the group of 41 travel journalists experienced a variety of adventures coordinated by the meeting’s sponsors — Adventures on the Gorge, Visit Southern West Virginia, Greenbrier County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Explore Summers County. The group spent the first night of the meeting in Lewisburg and the rest of the event in cabins at AOTG. Members had a variety of experience choices, from rafting the New River to exploring the foodie scene in Greenbrier County.
Many of the writers arrived before the meeting and stayed after to experience more of the region’s attractions. One intrepid group spent two days riding ATVs on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, enthusiastically posting photos of their muddy adventures on their social media channels. Another group spent a couple of days experiencing the luxurious offerings at Greenbrier Resort.
The writers visited attractions in seven Southern West Virginia counties — Raleigh, Fayette, Greenbrier, Summers, Nicholas, Wyoming and Mingo.
As of late last week, there had been 44 published stories so far with at least 20 more in the works, according to the press release. Articles have appeared in Parade, USA Today, AAA Explorer, Chicago Tribune, Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, Traveling Mom, Orbitz, Arizona Republic and travel magazines like Wander with Wonder, Inhabitat and Go World Travel. There was even a story translated into Chinese that appeared in Sing Tao Daily News. The audience reach for the combined stories so far is more than 500 million readers.
The event also drew attention from local and regional press, with coverage in The Register-Herald, The Fayette Tribune, WV Metro News and WCHS-TV.
“Southern West Virginia is definitely having a moment, and if you’ve recently read something about the New River Gorge, you’re not alone,” said Roger Wilson, CEO of Adventures on the Gorge. “These stories have captured the interest and imagination of prospective travelers.
“I know our own phones are ringing off the hook, and I’m hearing the same from our colleagues throughout the region.”
“The public-private partnership established by the four entities demonstrates the power tourism groups can gain by working together towards a shared goal,” said Lisa Strader, director of Visit Southern West Virginia. “The writers visited more than 35 of our regional attractions, restaurants, craft spirit facilities, resorts, state parks and lodging properties, and their participation clearly showed the writers that the destination was worth visiting and writing about.”