Rose returns to CVB
The Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently welcomed an old friend and familiar face in county tourism as its new Executive Director. Cara Rose has been spending the past few days getting re-acquainted with the office that she helped build from scratch some 20 years ago, when she was named the county's first CVB director.
Rose has spent the entirety of her professional life in Pocahontas County's tourism industry.
During undergraduate years at Salem College, she spent most of her summer months working at Watoga State Park. For her last summer break from college, the CVB hired Rose to staff its visitor center at Cass. Her first year out of college, she worked at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Then, after that first winter at Snowshoe in 1989, Rose was hired as the director of the newly established Pocahontas County CVB, a position she would hold for the next nine years. She would later become the supervisor of the multi-million-dollar science and visitor center at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank.
Rose said her early experience working at these attractions has given her an insider's view of all aspects of the county's tourism industry, from cleaning cabins at Watoga State Park to marketing and group sales at Snowshoe Mountain.
Rose said that even as a child, she enjoyed driving around Pocahontas County with her family and visiting the spots that were popular with county natives and out-of-towners alike.
"With my parents, we actually visited the attractions," she said "They'd take us around on Sundays-everyone took a Sunday drive back then."
Watoga State Park, the Cranberry Glades and the fire towers that once dotted the national forest were her favorite spots for family picnics as a child.
A lot has changed in Pocahontas County during Rose's career in tourism. With the closure of the tannery in Frank and the shoe factory in Marlinton in the mid 1990s and the growth of Snowshoe Mountain in the years that followed, tourism became the county's main economic engine over the next decade.
"It was really the beginning of tourism destination marketing," Rose said.
People came for the trains at Cass or to tour the observatory in Green Bank. And the county had long been a hunting and fishing destination.
With the state's establishment of the hotel-motel tax in the late 1980s, funds were made available for the type of destination marketing that would become the main role of county convention and visitors bureaus.
Today, Rose said she plans for the CVB to take on a greater role in group tour marketing and bringing motor-coach tours to Pocahontas County attractions.
In the near-term, Rose said she wants to develop the CVB's outreach program to attractions and lodging establishments to strengthen those relationships.
In the longer-term, Rose said she would like the CVB to develop programs for youth considering a career in the county's tourism and hospitality industry.
This summer and fall, Rose said the CVB is marketing the county's attractions in state and in neighboring metro areas as gas tops $4 a gallon and families seek vacation and recreation options that are a little closer to home.
And in the past few years, while the ski season has plateaued or declined, according to the CVB, summer tourism is growing, and attention is turning to the spring and fall season, as well.
During the next year, Rose said people will also see a focus in the CVB's attention to developing the spring and fall "shoulder" seasons with promotions highlighting hunting and fishing, as well as motorcycling.
When she was growing up in Pocahontas County, Rose said she remembers hunting and fishing being the mainstays of tourism here.
"There is room to enhance what we have in the county," she said.
In the past, Rose said, Pocahontas County didn't have to market itself for hunting and fishing, because people simply knew it was the place to come for those activities. But today, the population of rural hunters is declining while hunters who live in urban and suburban areas are a growing audience. Hunting and fishing destinations have been marketing themselves to that new audience, said Rose.
"We have a terrific destination for hunting and fishing," Rose said. "So it's a matter of getting the word out. It's not really an audience that has been marketed to in the past couple of decades."
Getting the word out has changed dramatically since Rose's first days with the CVB, when ads were literally cut-and-pasted together with paper and scissors. During the CVB's lodging luncheon last week at the Pocahontas County Opera House, the CVB unveiled a marketing campaign for hunting, fishing and motorcycle touring that makes use of quick-response (QR) codes and key codes that will direct viewers of print ads to custom-tailored content on the CVB's website concerning their particular interest.
"Marketing has changed tremendously," Rose said. "The Internet was just coming online when I left the CVB. Staying on top of those kinds of trends, making sure we're adapting to the electronic age and marketing in a way that we reach visitors effectively is really important."
With the ski resort, two scenic railroads, the most state parks in West Virginia and its myriad options for outdoor recreation, Rose said Pocahontas County, as a whole, already stands out among West Virginia's tourism destinations.
"I really do love Pocahontas County," she said. "I think it really is the tourism jewel of West Virginia. People that I've talked to love to travel to Pocahontas County or wish they could live here. We're really fortunate here to have all the great attractions that we do have in this county."