WHEELING - A couple from Columbus drives more than two hours to attend Wheeling's First Friday events - a habit reflective of thriving local culture, according to the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It is working. People are coming," said Wheeling CVB Executive Director Frank O'Brien, citing the $5.1 billion travel and tourism industry in West Virginia. "I'm convinced we're on the upward swing."
O'Brien believes there has been positive change in Wheeling from the combined efforts of local government, nonprofits, private businesses and the public. He also credited the involvement of young people as imperative to sustaining such momentum.
Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Frank O’Brien and Marketing Director Olivia Litman anticipate an event-packed summer for local residents.
The primary job of the CVB is to attract visitors from outside the area.
"We constantly monitor whether our marketing efforts are bringing back the highest return on investment," O'Brien said, adding the Wheeling CVB is impressed with recent numbers. Statewide, local and state government revenues generated by travel were $707 million in 2012. Without these government revenues' generated travel spending, each West Virginia household would have had to pay an additional $924 in state and local taxes to maintain current service levels.
Locally, O'Brien referenced the multimillion-dollar economic impact from Wheeling's top destinations that include the Capitol Theatre, WesBanco Arena, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Cabela's and Oglebay.
He also highlighted Centre Market and Heritage Port as some of Wheeling's most important attractions. An estimated 350,000-400,000 people visit the waterfront for events during the year.
Wheeling CVB Marketing Director Olivia Litman said the visitwheelingwv.com calendar of events is planned through November. She encouraged anyone with an upcoming event to contact the CVB to have it included in the online schedule, a central resource for all things happening in the area.