COPY-Locals celebrate, rely on busy summer tourism season - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

COPY-Locals celebrate, rely on busy summer tourism season

LEWISBURG, W. Va (WVVA)-- Saturday kicks off National Tourism Week, and the upcoming summer months begin the year's biggest tourism season.

Those months are especially important in Greenbrier County, where tourism brings in nearly $181 million each year.

Experts said Friday that visitors especially enjoy the mostly mild summer weather in the area as well as the plethora of activities going on at that time of the year.

Kara Dense, the Executive Director of the Greenbrier Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the summer tourism season is the biggest of the year.

"When visitation is higher, that's when [retailers] are really moving lots of inventory and seating lots of guests," she said. "So it's very important to them."

Dense said many businesses rely on the summer months to generate much of their sales, and keep them afloat during the off-season.

"Lots of times [they] depend on a great tourism season to get them through the rest of the year," she said.

Local business owners told WVVA they are already seeing an increase in sales this early into the season.

Merrick Tracy, owner of Hill and Holler Bicycle Works in Lewisburg, said he's already seeing business pick up.

Tracy added that he's noticed many visitors to the counties coming from other nearby areas in West Virginia, and not just from out of state. He said that may be because of hard economic times, and rising travel costs putting a damper on trips further away, making the Greenbrier Valley the perfect stop.

"Lewisburg [and Greenbrier County] is a nice getaway that's not too far from Richmond, Huntington, and other nearby cities," he said. "And we have a lot to offer here... We're seeing more and more people taking day trips or short weekend getaways here."

Tracy said he hopes this summer is as busy as last year.

The Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors' Bureau held a contest called "The Best of the Greenbrier Valley" to help them kick off National Tourism Week in the community. The winners were announced Thursday night:

Best Attraction: The Greenbrier

Best Lodging: The Greenbrier

Best Restaurant: Food and Friends

Best Retail Shop: Harmony Ridge Gallery

Best Event: Taste of Our Towns

Dense said people in 32 states voted in the contest.

The CVB also awarded Jeff Bray and John Pearson with the "Friend of Tourism Award" for bringing the 2012 National Speleological Society's Annual Convention to the Greenbrier Valley. The convention welcomed more than 1500 attendees to the area in late June of last year.

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