Showing why it’s called ‘Almost Heaven’

I’ve always felt that West Virginia is a special place. There is such a variety of scenery and places to go, that you probably wouldn’t think it could all fit into such a relatively small state.

As a way to help showcase some of what makes West Virginia so unique, and to further encourage travel and visitation, the state Division of Tourism has created a contest which utilizes social media.

By posting some of their favorite photos from around the state on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, residents and visitors can show others just why West Virginia is #AlmostHeaven.

The campaign will run until June 20 (this Tuesday), which also happens to be West Virginia’s birthday.

Tourism officials will select from the public posts, with winners receiving a variety of prize packages, including stays to our state parks, white water rafting or other outdoor outings, or possibly a trip to a lodge or resort in the Mountain State.

As of Friday, 7 million people had posted photos of some of their favorite West Virginia sites.

Tourism is a big — and growing — part of West Virginia’s economy. As more people visit, they take stories of our state home with them, and that has the potential to encourage even more to journey to our mountains and valleys.

State officials recognize that, and, in recent years, more effort has been made to better promote our state. They showcase the natural beauty, reflect on our history and culture, while also showing some of modern West Virginia.

As funding has become less available because of budget issues, social media has taken an increased roll in promoting West Virginia.

This new campaign and contest help to show how important the various platforms are in encouraging tourism, but social media also is a way for each of us to play our own part in promoting West Virginia.

By posting photos, using a unifying “hashtag,” or labeling the photo with the location it was taken, we each help to show off a little corner of our state.

Several of West Virginia’s state parks have their own social media accounts, as do many tourist attractions throughout the state.

By posting photos, and promoting their events, we all have an opportunity to see what is offered. You never know when you might learn something new about a particular location, even one you’ve been to before, and have a desire to return.

Magazines and other publications based in West Virginia use social media to promote their product, with pictures from their articles or the travels of their staff.

West Virginia-based businesses use the platforms to show people some of what they make, whether it’s a restaurant, glass company, winery or distillery, craft store, racetrack or bakery.

One of the best parts of social media use? There’s little to no cost for any of it.

The majority of social media platforms don’t charge for their use, so outside of a little bit of time, there is no financial obligation for posting a photo or video with a description of the area.

I appreciate the efforts of tourism officials to help promote our state, and feel any effort which helps to bring new visitors within our borders is successful.

We all have a unique view as to what makes West Virginia special, and why it’s considered to be #AlmostHeaven.

Even if a contest isn’t being held, we can all play a part in showing why this state is wild and wonderful, and I would encourage all of us to do as much as we can, both in our travels and our daily lives.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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