Charleston Water Crisis Hurts Tourism Economy

Updated 4 years ago From Press Release
Charleston, W.Va. – The lack of usable water for more than 300,000 residents due to a chemical contamination in the Charleston, W.Va., region, has hit tourism businesses particularly hard. All restaurants were ordered closed and several area hotels were forced to close due to lack of resources.

While recent testing of the water supply is positive and West Virginia American Water is methodically flushing and testing the water to get businesses back open, Convention and Visitor Bureau officials fear the negative long-term effect on the brand.

“While we are familiar with weather-related crises, this incident has been the most devastating on the Charleston tourism industry in recent history,” said President and CEO, Alisa Bailey. “We are very concerned for our frontline employees who have been without income for several days straight and for the negative impact this will have on our ability to attract new conventions and leisure travelers to Charleston.”

Bailey indicated that the CVB will be working with area businesses to assess the negative economic impact and to identify financial resources to increase the city’s marketing message.

The CVB intends to immediately launch a public relations campaign to get residents and tourists alike to patronize restaurants and hotels, and to seek out the tourism industry at large to assist in recovery efforts.

“We are taking lessons from the BP spill to understand what avenues of relief and resources might be available to us,” Bailey said. “We are undergoing millions of dollars in tourism infrastructure improvements in Charleston so it is even more important for our message to reach meeting planners and leisure visitors.”

Officials at West Virginia American Water will be lifting the ban on “no use” policies by zones, which will provide some relief; however, restaurants must undergo health department inspections and approval before either opening or expanding limited menu service.

Bailey said the outreach of support from the US Travel Association, Southeast Tourism Society, West Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association and other CVBs has been gratifying. “Our industry more than any other is rather like a close knit family,” she said. “During times like these even our closest competitors are ready to help us get our economy back up.” Bailey has served as CEO of the Charleston CVB since 2012 and is the former head of the Virginia Tourism Corporation and West Virginia Division of Tourism.
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