'Almost Heaven' campaign lures out-of-state visitors to W.Va. - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

'Almost Heaven' campaign lures out-of-state visitors to W.Va.


BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) Billboards are popping up in major metropolitan cities from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. to Charlotte. They are different pictures of West Virginia but they all say the same thing --  Almost Heaven.

The billboards are part of a new ad campaign by Governor Jim Justice to increase the number of first-time visitors, reach new travelers across the region, and continue inspire the state's loyal visitor base. 

Beckley small-business owner Tom Sopher can tell a difference when the state of West Virginia is doing an tourism ad campaign and when it is not. He notices not by the signs he passes on the interstate, but by the traffic coming into his store.

In the 1990s, Sopher kept a U.S. map in his Uptown Beckley store Best Foam & Fabric. "I took the map down because the tourism...it stopped. It was obvious the campaign had run out," he said referencing West Virginia's Wild and Wonderful campaign.

The ad blitz is a series of television, billboard, and internet ads. Gov. Justice launched the campaign in April following a two-week-long photo contest that generated more than 7,000 photo submissions. 

According to a press release by the West Virginia Tourism Office, research conducted prior to the roll-out found that people's perceptions of West Virginia were positively affected after hearing West Virginia referred to as "Almost Heaven" and being exposed to the song "Country Roads."

In Fayette County, New River Gorge Convention & Visitors Bureau Exec. Dir. Sharon Cruickshank is looking forward to seeing the campaign in action. She is hopeful they will inspire people to come back or maybe see for the first time 'Almost Heaven' West Virginia. 

"It's just going to remind people to come home to West Virginia. It's almost heaven. Come and enjoy." 

The release said the West Virginia Tourism Office plans to implement Phase II of the new brand's execution, which will include involving other state agencies including the West Virginia Development Office, West Virginia Div. of Natural Resources, and West Virginia State Parks. 

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