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Tourism Conference Kicks Off

Reported: Feb. 23, 2014 6:06 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 23, 2014 11:55 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Sean Delancey) -- For the first time, West Virginia is hosting a multi-state tourism conference in Charleston.

The annual Travel Showcase is a way for West Virginia to show off its best assets to a group of more than 500 travel planners and journalists.

The event kicked off at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Charleston Civic Center, following tours of Charleston for out-of-state delegates.

Organizers said it is a great way for West Virginia to improve its image on the heels of the water crisis.

"So this gives us a hands-on boots on the ground way to sell the state," Alsia Bailey, of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

Cities that host this conference normally see an economic boost of half a million to a million dollars.

Smooth tones from the hammered dulcimer welcomed guests from all over the south.

"I'm actually really feeling Charleston West Va.,” Michael Parhams, a Georgia delegate, said. “It's a very quaint little town."

Parhams and Holly Horsyth have come all of the way from Atlanta to sample a little of what West Virginia has to offer, including food, music and history. But they said they've been most impressed with the friendly welcome from West Virginia residents.

"Everyone is very outgoing,” Forsyth said. “They're very happy to meet you."

Betty Carver, the commissioner of the West Virginia Commission of tourism, said the event has been a long time in the making. They received the bid to host the gathering a year and a half ago. It's the first time West Virginia has been able to host this conference, and she said it should equate to big dollars in the future.

"We'll see the economic impact of this for a very long time,” she said. “I often think of Charleston as a great hub, because you are so close to things you can do."

Whether it was the food, music or a friendly welcome, the Georgia delegates said they were very impressed.

The travel group planners will meet for the next two days to get down to business and start booking trips bases on what they've seen so far.



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