|Governor also celebrates over $7 million in upgrades at Hawks Nest State Park|
|ANSTED, WV – Gov. Jim Justice hosted an event today at Hawks Nest State Park to announce that West Virginia is once again blazing new trails in the tourism industry with an all-new Vacation Guide unlike any ever seen before, to unveil a new State Highway Map for 2022, and to ceremonially cut the ribbon on over $7 million in improvements to the park lodge and museum.|
“We’re truly on our way. Everyone in the outside world wants a piece of West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Today’s announcements are just testimony to all the goodness that’s going on all around us.”
|First, the Governor was joined by state Department of Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby to unveil West Virginia’s groundbreaking 2022 Vacation Guide. Instead of the traditional single-copy guide, West Virginia is releasing an exclusive four-part vacation guide collection.|
West Virginia the first state in the country to adopt a multi-part vacation guide format.
“We are so excited about these new vacation guides,” Secretary Ruby said. “The Governor has really pushed us each year to innovate with our vacation guides. About 10 years ago, the vacation guide just looked like a phonebook. The state wasn’t making an investment. And I’ll never forget, one of the first things the Governor said was, ‘We’ve got to do better than this.’
“Two years ago we did a flipbook. Last year, we did the 50th anniversary of “Country Roads” special edition. And this year, we’re thrilled to become the first state in the country to release a collection of guides instead of just one.”
|“I love when West Virginia leads the way for the nation,” Gov. Justice said. “This is just another example of how we think big and outside-the-box.”|
The four guides each highlight different aspects of what makes West Virginia one of the country’s premier vacation and travel destinations. Titles include Outdoor Recreation, Natural Wonders, Mountain Culture, and, finally, a special guide devoted to America’s newest national park; New River Gorge National Park & Preserve.
|The Governor continues to be intimately involved in the vacation guide process, hand-selecting cover photography for each of these guides highlighting West Virginia’s sought-after seasons and activities.|
The Natural Wonders guide showcases stunning scenery readily on display – from rushing waterfalls to mountain vistas, lush forests, caves, and starry skies. While the Outdoor Recreation guide focuses on the vast amount of outdoor activities and public lands found across the Mountain State.
|The Mountain Culture piece creates a sense of place and highlights the authentic flavors, art, and heritage found in the Mountain State. To round out the series, the collection features a guide to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, detailing the park’s history, recreational opportunities and surrounding mountain towns.|
|Each of the vacation guides feature QR codes that expand on the published articles and provide online access to exclusive content and trip inspiration from hundreds of tourism businesses across the state.|
This special travel series was produced in partnership with Dotdash Meredith, a leading publisher of major brands including People, Martha Stewart Living, Shape, Better Homes & Gardens, and more. As a part of this partnership, more than 100,000 West Virginia vacation guides will be included with subscriber copies of Southern Living and Real Simple magazines to encourage travel to the Mountain State.
|Also during Wednesday’s event, Gov. Justice and Secretary Ruby gave travelers a sneak peek of the all-new 2022 Highway Map. The new map features all of West Virginia’s state parks and forests, alongside important traveler information, must-see stops, and scenic country roads to travel throughout West Virginia.|
“This is also something the Governor pushed us on,” Secretary Ruby said. “He wanted this to be a keepsake – a collector piece – and, along with our friends from the West Virginia Division of Highways, we came up with an absolutely stunning map.”
Finally Wednesday, the Governor held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting with Secretary Ruby, as well as WVDNR Director Brett McMillion, to celebrate major upgrades at Hawks Nest State Park – including $5 million in improvements to the Hawks Nest lodge and more than $2 million in improvements to the Hawks Nest museum.
|“This facility had sat idly by for many, many years. It was very deserving of attention, and our Governor answered,” McMillion said. “What a showpiece we have here now. These restorations will serve West Virginians for years and years.”|
Upgrades include new landscaping, a new outdoor pool with a splash pad, a brand new lobby, front desk area, and public restrooms. Lodge rooms have been renovated with new furnishings, ADA accessibility has been expanded, and more.
|These upgrades represent just a small portion of the $151 million-worth of improvement projects that have been completed or started at every state park and forest in West Virginia since Gov. Justice took office.|
“Governor Justice’s commitment to our entire park system is giving us the ability to create great memories for people for generations to come – and that’s not limited to Hawks Nest. Right next door at Babcock State Park, we’ve invested $1.8 million in the cabins and infrastructure,” McMillion said. “I also can’t thank the Department of Tourism enough for the work that they’re doing in connection with us at the DNR. The things that we’re all doing together are unbelievable.”
|“All we ever needed in this state was a coach – someone who believed enough to put a stake in the sand and commit real dollars to show the outside world how good we really are. From there, the people come in floods, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve invested and, all of a sudden, you turn around and there’s money upon money coming our way. All of a sudden, this state is now known far and wide as the diamond in the rough that everyone missed.”|
|“I want to thank the Governor for his continuing support,” Secretary Ruby said. “He is always pushing our team to go further, go better, and to be innovative. The results have been unbelievable. Statewide, we’re seeing everything that the Governor told us would happen is coming true. People are falling in love with the great outdoors more and more every single day, they want small mountain towns, and they absolutely love West Virginia.”|
“We are the best in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice concluded. “We have family values, we’re faith-based, we’re low-crime, we’re craftsmen, we’re located within a rock’s throw of two-thirds of the population of this country, we abound in natural resources, we have beauty beyond belief. All West Virginians should be proud to call our state home, and everyone else should be tripping over themselves to come visit as fast as they can.”
|Gov. Justice’s vision for WV Tourism paying dividends|
Since taking office in 2017, Gov. Jim Justice has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s tourism efforts. These investments have changed West Virginia’s image in major, unprecedented ways, and we are now reaping the rewards of promoting our state to the world for the first time ever.
Prior to Gov. Justice taking office, the state had seen four consecutive years of decline in traveler spending. Upon taking office, Gov. Justice immediately appointed Chelsea Ruby as Tourism Commissioner. The state’s tourism marketing budget was then tripled and the research-based “Almost Heaven” campaign was launched in early 2018. Since then, the state has seen incredible gains across the board. In the three years following the campaign’s launch, annual traveler spending in the state grew by more than $611 million, reversing the historic decline seen in the previous four years.
People are more excited than ever to be in West Virginia. From April 2010 to July 2019, more than 43,000 people moved out of the state. However, from 2020 through 2021, net migration is up in West Virginia for the first time in decades, with over 2,000 people moving into our state, making West Virginia one of the top states in the entire nation that people are moving into on a percentage basis. A recent study found that West Virginia was tied with South Carolina for the top inbound states in 2021. In fact, 2021 was the first year West Virginia even made the list.
Additionally, increased investments in the state’s tourism efforts have visitation and intrigue in West Virginia through the roof. Earlier this year, West Virginia was named a top-10 travel region in the world to visit by Lonely Planet; the only state to earn this prestigious distinction. The state was also tapped as a top destination for 2022 by Condé Nast Traveler, Frommers, USA Today and the Huffington Post, in addition to being dubbed one of the World’s Greatest Places by TIME. The state was the only destination to make all of these coveted lists. Gov. Justice also recently announced the completion of $9.5 million in upgrades at Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley Resort state parks, and announced that the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System sold nearly 95,000 trail permits in 2021, which represents the highest number of annual permits ever sold in a single year and the system’s 21st consecutive year of growth in ridership.