WHEELING - A Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) can often play a vital role in community events and entertainment. CVBs work to promote tourism and attract visitors to the surrounding area. They also promote traffic from business travelers and help find lodging, restaurants, and shopping areas.
Wheeling plays host to a busy and active CVB. Executive Director Frank O'Brien says the primary mission is to market Wheeling and Ohio County outside a fifty-mile radius as a destination for visitors.
"The goal is to get more people to visit the area and spend a night while they're here," he said. "That drives up the economic impact of tourism."
The Wheeling CVB’s website hosts many images such as this one, showing the historic Suspension Bridge, to advertise the tourist attractions in Wheeling and Ohio County.
Most CVBs in the United States are funded by a hotel bed tax, which is a levy enforced by a local government on hotel stays within its jurisdiction.
Between 3.5 and 4 million people visit Wheeling and Ohio County per year, coming to see attractions like Oglebay Resort, Wheeling Island Racetrack and Casino and destination retail, which refers to shopping areas and stores that are not commonly found. In the Ohio Valley, destination retail spots include Cabela's at the Highlands and Centre Market in Wheeling, which is one of very few 1800s market houses left in the nation.
O'Brien explained that a CVB's job is to make sure people know about various attractions. They buy advertising for newspapers, television and radio and go to market and travel shows where they try to generate overnight stays from the group tourism industry. For example, a motorcoach visit can be hugely beneficial economically, bringing in anywhere from $11,000 to $15,000.
CVBs often go unnoticed in their own areas, because the goal is to bring in outside visitors. However, they also work to improve the quality of life for local residents. Wheeling CVB is especially involved in the community; in 2009, they purchased the Capitol Music Hall and then restored the building's original name, Capitol Theater. O'Brien says the theater is a tourism driver.
"People come to see acts like Seinfeld or Ron White. It's an opportunity for locals to see quality entertainment," he said. "Most [CVBs] are just marketing agencies, but we felt it was the right thing to do. The Board of Directors agreed it was important not the let the Capitol languish or disappear."
When the theater closed, the negative impact was felt by area hotels and restaurants, but since re-opening in September of 2009 between 57,000 and 62,000 people have passed through each year. The theater also offers a significant cultural group; it is home to the 80-year-old Wheeling Symphony.
While the Capitol Theater is certainly popular, O'Brien says Oglebay Resort is the biggest tourist draw due to its popularity all four seasons. The Festival of Lights saw an increase in visitation over the past holiday season. Also important is the Wheeling Waterfront on the Ohio River, which draws in thousands of people with more than 50 events.
The "Convention" in Convention and Visitors Bureau is less important in Wheeling and Ohio County. O'Brien says that while they strive to bring in smaller groups like reunions and lawyer's associations, with only 1,200 hotel rooms available in Wheeling it doesn't make sense to seek out groups of over 200 people.
"Wheeling is not a convention city, like Orlando or San Francisco or Pittsburgh, because they have the room inventory of 10,000 or more. However, we are a great place for people with smaller associations to come and have the same quality experience," O'Brien said.
Go to wheelingcvb.com for more information on events and tourism in Wheeling and Ohio County.
Warner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org