CHARLESTON, W.Va. - An initiative of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau aims to use the citizens of Charleston to bridge the gap between the city and the events officials want to bring here.
They're calling it "Capitalize Charleston" and billing it as a way to engage the community in attracting tourists - and their money - to Charleston for conferences and meetings.
Alisa Bailey, Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO, said the campaign originated in talks about "what was working and what wasn't working" at the bureau.
"And the common denominator in all the successes was that we had an individual involved who had ties to the group we were bringing in," she said. "So we're asking people to do that for us."
As the promotional materials proclaim, tourism is "big business." Last year, the bureau hosted 35 events with 66,000 attendees who spent a total of 16,000 nights in hotel rooms. That's an estimated economic impact of $11 million for the city.
"Tourism is the one thing we can do in our city that no one can argue with," Mayor Danny Jones said. "There's no smoke in the air; there's no dirty water. People just come and have fun, and we make money."
Bailey likens most economic development to fishing for big game: a lot of work for one big fish. Drawing in tourists is more like commercial fishing - you use big nets, and try to lure a lot of fish at once. And you have to keep going out there, day after day, to cover a large enough swath of ocean to have an impact.
At an event Monday to unveil Capitalize Charleston, the bureau recognized several community members who have used their positions in national or regional organizations to bring events and meetings to the city.
Those included local branches of the Marine Corps League (around 1,000 Marines are expected to visit the city for a convention next August) and the National Guard (in a few years, more than 1,000 people could visit for nearly a week).
They're hoping that if they continue in this vein, more people will be inspired to do the same. After all, Bailey said, the primary gain for local residents is a sense of pride in what they've done.
"In these cynical days it's nice to see people do something just for that feeling and for their community," Bailey said.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.