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Greenbrier Classic offers chance to promote region

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With tens of thousands of people set to attend the 2013 Greenbrier Classic in two weeks, Greenbrier Valley officials again are preparing to market their area to capitalize on the event.

Kara Dense, executive director of the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her staff and an army of volunteers will fan out during the weeklong PGA golf tournament to let attendees know the area has a lot more to offer than golf.

 "That is our message: To get people out into the region by letting them know what there is and hopefully get them to spend an extra night and really make those cash registers ring throughout the county and region," Dense said.

While her organization is based in Greenbrier County, Dense said it functions more as a regional visitors bureau, promoting events not just in Greenbrier County, but also in Pocahontas, Monroe, Summers and Nicholas counties.

Up to 40,000 people attend the Greenbrier Classic on peak days, and even if many of them might come to town only for the day, officials want to make sure visitors go home knowing what they can come back and visit later in the year.

"It's always a great event and opportunity to showcase West Virginia and the Greenbrier Valley," Dense said.

To promote the region, the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau has signed on as an official tournament sponsor.

The organization will have signage and information booths along The Old White TPC golf course, as well as a full-page ad in the official tournament guide. Staff will distribute free copies of the organization's 48-page visitors guide at each of the information booths.

Tournament attendees park at the state fairgrounds in Fairlea and take shuttle buses to and from the golf course each day.

The buses will be equipped with video monitors that will play a 30-second advertisement promoting some of the local restaurants and attractions.

"We are really encouraging folks that if they don't make it into the downtown during the day to make it into downtown Lewisburg or White Sulphur Springs once golf is done," Dense said.

Visitors bureau staff also will be active on the Greenbrier Valley Facebook and Twitter pages, promoting the tournament and local activities.

Dense said officials will use the social media pages to show man-on-the-street interviews with tournament visitors and conduct prize giveaways.

Staff also will be in the tournament's media center, where 60 to 80 journalists might be covering the event on a given day. Dense said it is important to have one-on-one interaction with the reporters who may be new to the area.

"It allows us to have access to media if they want to have information on different kinds of stories to cover or information on the area and the economic impact as well," she said.

While she said it is hard to put a finger on the exact economic impact of the tournament, Dense said the area has seen evidence of a rebound.

She said 2008 and 2009 were particularly rough years for the local economy. But when the tournament began in 2010, followed by Lewisburg being named "Coolest Small Town in America" by Budget Travel magazine the next year, local merchants began seeing a rebound.

She said business and lodging activity has increased each of the last four years.

"We know that more people are coming, more heads are being put in beds and more people are staying in our hotels," Dense said.

With the summer months performing particularly well during the past few years, Dense said officials plan to begin marketing the area during the fall and winter.

The convention and visitors bureau has been working with the Charles Ryan and Associates public relations firm to develop a marketing strategy for those "shoulder months."

Another change this year is that the Greenbrier Classic concert series has been pared to two concerts rather than the usual three. Kenny Chesney will perform Thursday, July 4, and Aerosmith will perform Saturday, July 6.

That leaves Friday evening open for people who come for the weekend.

Dense said the lack of a Friday concert may work out well for Lewisburg because town merchants host a "First Fridays After Five" special event on the first Friday of each month. Local shops and restaurants stay open until 9 p.m. serving complimentary refreshments and hosting special entertainment.

"That First Friday event will help get people into the downtown," Dense said. "And once people really get down there to see, I guarantee that will have a big effect on getting people coming back to the area later in the year."

While the bureau will have a significant ground game underway at the tournament itself, Dense acknowledged the national television exposure on CBS does a great job of attracting people who have never stepped foot in the area.

"They show lots of great shots of The Greenbrier and the surrounding area and take every chance they can to talk about what a great place this is," she said.

"And you know, no amount of marketing or public relations that we could do could have that kind of effect," she said. "At that point it just sells itself."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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