W.Va. to host national tourism writers

March 15, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The tourism industry in the Eastern Panhandle is growing, and local officials are eager to show off the attractions that make the area unique.

This spring, tourism officials from the three Eastern Panhandle counties will host a luncheon for travel writers from throughout the East Coast, said David Blythe, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

On May 8, about 35 writers from magazines and newspapers have been invited to the event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


"There's a multitude of things they can write about here,'' Blythe said. "We just want to make sure they have an opportunity to see all the things that are available."

The effort comes on the heels of a state report which says West Virginia's tourism industry grew five percent last year - the greatest increase since 1989.

Between 1995 and 1996, the tourism industry's contribution to the state economy jumped from $3.8 billion to $4 billion, according to Gov. Cecil Underwood's office.

In the Eastern Panhandle, tourism grew from a $294 million industry to a $308 million industry in those two years, the report showed.

The number of people employed through tourism increased from $5,274 to 5,550, the report said.

"These statistics are important to the state as we seek avenues of economic diversification,'' the governor said in the report. "Tourism is a critical component of the state's economic future."

The growth of the tourism industry in the Eastern Panhandle can be traced to businesses including whitewater rafting, mountain biking, Civil War attractions and bed and breakfast inns, Blythe said.

There also has also been a growing interest in the area's railroad industry, Blythe said.

Don Trask, owner of The Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn in Berkeley Springs, said word is spreading about his town's famed natural water supply, which has attracted scores of health conscious people to the Morgan County town.

"So far, we're way ahead of what we did the year before. I think every inn here is enthusiastic," said Trask, who estimated his business has increased about 10 percent.

Most of the people visiting the area have typically come from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, but now visitors are coming from Pittsburgh, Colorado and California, Trask said.

Blythe said increasing numbers of people traveling through the area on Interstate 81 are also boosting tourism. Many travelers stop over for short, impromptu visits to local attractions.

The Herald-Mail Articles