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Area tourism directors share ideas

TOURISM TALK — Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla talks tourism potential with industry leaders from 11 counties in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio Wednesday. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Tourism directors from three states gathered in Steubenville Wednesday to share ideas and marketing strategies, the first time they’ve met outside the Mountain State.

Judy Bratten, executive director of the Visitor Center and Historic Fort Steuben, said it’s all about collaboration.

“It’s exciting to see how people are working together,” she said. “The only way we all survive the future economy is by thinking regionally and collaborating — sharing our ideas and opportunities.”

The summits, sponsored by WVU Extension, bring together tourism leaders from an 11-county region that includes border counties in Ohio (Jefferson, Belmont and Monroe) and Pennsylvania (Washington, Greene and Fayette) along with Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties in West Virginia.

“They share resources, share marketing,” WVU Extension’s Norm Schwertfeger said. “There seems to be a lot of energy, everybody’s trying to pull together.”

Schwertfeger said the goal is to get tourists to extend their stay.

“We’re not letting state lines or county lines keep us from partnering,” he said. “Everybody’s embraced the idea — they like being able to work together to promote the region. It’s a win-win.”

Top Of West Virginia Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Dan Greathouse said it just makes sense.

“Take a look at West Virginia, it’s about six miles wide,” Greathouse said. “So everything spills over into Pennsylvania and Ohio. We have to face facts … if people come to West Virginia, they’re going to come to Steubenville — and if they come to Steubenville, they’re going to come to West Virginia. It just makes sense to share marketing, communicate and network.”

Schwertfeger said the group is currently developing a website as well as social networking methodology so they can “collectively market” the region.

“That’s not easy to (do),” he said, “but it’s in the works.”

That’s key because they want the general public to be able to access region-wide activities online with one click of their mouse.

“In our estimation it’s already improved marketing,” Schwertfeger said. “There are so many things to see and do in such a (small area). We want to be able to advertise and show people what’s going on, so that if they come to our area, there will be a lot of things for them to see (and do).”

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