Ten Optimistic Things to Consider with Southern West Virginia and Tourism

Updated: Apr 6

Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration considers Southern West Virginia to be divided into two regions:


Hatfield-McCoy Mountains. (Boone, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, and Wayne Counties)


New River-Greenbrier Valley. (Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers, and Wyoming Counties).


On the outskirts are very large metro areas, such as Ashland/Huntington, Charleston, and Roanoke, VA.


Unlike our 10 Critical Things to Consider with Southern West Virginia and Tourism, this list is far more focused on Southern West Virginia and not the surrounding region.


Foundation

1. Exotic

One could argue that all locations are exotic and it depends upon the eye of the beholder. But what we are optimistic about is that many stakeholders in Southern WV are becoming self aware of the potential to market themselves as an exotic destination. Southern WV is ready now. We can’t wait to get rid of the old buildings that are falling down. Tourists who have never visited the USA or this region of the continent may have an eye for Central Appalachia, and they want to see everything. To them there are no good and bad in Southern WV, only the prospects of learning, and making a connection about an area they have been interested in for some time. If you are optimistic about this too, please see our 10 Recommendations for Tourism Entrepreneurs in Coal County.


2. Excellent Location.

The state capital is very close. This helps with lobbying for policy, and the foundation of Travel Agencies and other tourism portals. Matewan is roughly 1.5 hours away from the capital!

Southern WV can host guests 12 months a year and has access to 2/3rd of the nation's population in a day's drive (200,000,000 people). Bonus: Toronto, CA is 8.75 hours away (Beckley) and offers nearly 3 million citizens! All Interstate!

After researching Wayne County, we discovered that Louisa, KY is an excellent portal for far Southwestern, WV.


3. Excellent Infrastructure

There is the International Airport in Charleston. This allows tourists from all of the world to streamline their trips and have their passports checked. All they need is a Transporter to drive them south.


Domestic Airports in Huntington, Raleigh, Beckley, and there are plenty of Regional Airports.


Amtrak rail goes through Southern WV!


Excellent Federal Interstate System (I-64, and I-77).


Loads of Highways and Routes. The Country Music Highway in Kentucky can get you to far Southwestern, WV really quickly. The new Coalfields Expressway connects Mullens to Beckley.

GreyHound Bus stops in Ashland, KY; Huntington, Hurricane, Charleston, Beckley, and Bluefield.


Car Rentals are respectable at portals of entry, and from KY (Pikeville, Prestonsburg, and Ashland).


Timing

4. Sense of Urgency

After losing 3.4% of their state population from 2010-2020, and having more depletion in 2021, we are optimistic that Southern WV is focused to revitalize their economy and their greatest assets, which are culture, youth, and natural resources (nature based tourism). We are very optimistic about Southern WV being a trendsetter for the Tri-State area of KY, VA, and WV, which we call Coal Country. With urgency comes centralized innovation, but it must also include grassroot endeavors that promote collaborative policy formation.

There is a lot of potential with this:

The government is allowing private enterprises to invest in state domain land to improve the recreational opportunity spectrum, and improve places to rest and eat.



5. Nature based Tourism

80+ years ago much of the forests were cleared and over harvested in Southern WV. The federal and state governments moved in to help protect these lands to reduce flash flooding and other problems. Fortunately, it takes about the same amount of time for tree canopy closure, thus allowing rich ecosystems in the understory. Furthermore, thanks to social enterprises the rivers have been the cleanest in many decades. Southern WV has 196 square miles of Wildlife Management Areas alone.

Loads of cash are being put into State Parks and State Forests.


6. Golden Era of Global Travel

The Baby Boomers in North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, China and many other locations have money and they want to travel. In late 2021 the Airport in Charleston just became an International Airport. Hopefully this window of opportunity will still be open for at least 10 more years because the average Bommer age is roughly 66 years. But these tourists will want VIP services when they set out on a 7 day trip. Please read this blog to better understand how state capitals can help create demand for VIP travel in Southern WV.


Buyers Market

7. Serendipity of COVID

Right when many communities were dusting themselves off after hitting rock bottom, COVID happened, which created a 10 year quantum leap in the telework paradigm. Southern WV is in close proximity to 2/3rds of the nation's population, and D.C. is just 5 hours away from Beckley! We are optimistic that Southwestern WV will increase their population over the next 10 years.

And at the same time the panic happened, Starlink was starting to really gain ground. It’s important not to be too optimistic here, because this seems almost too good to be true. COVID came in like a Lion and went out like a Lamb, so we may not get as many people to relocate as we like over the next 5 years.


8. Cost of Living Index

The state average is 78. McDowell County is 67! For some reason the Housing in McDowell County is showing up as 13.6. Could this be an error? This cost of living index will help motivate retirees, long term labor, seasonal labor, and entrepreneurs to relocate to Southern WV. Some of these counties are the poorest in the nation, and are a buyers market for frugal families and investors.


9. Housing market that is the inverse from the rest of the nation

There is a general housing shortage in much of the nation, but in Southern WV the opposite is happening! There are many solid buildings and homes that can be used (after repairs). This will help motivate labor and entrepreneurs to relocate to the area. It also helps that the state of WV has a very very low housing index (41.7).

Note, Fayetteville and other areas don’t hold true to this level of optimism.


10. Less fatalistic.

As stated, many towns have already reached rock bottom and are on the rebound. Thanks to the state investments in the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, we are very optimistic that communities will continue to embrace tourism. To be fatalistic means you don’t try to control your destiny. We are optimistic that forign investors, entrepreneurs, and communities will continue to Collaborate to form sustainable tourism relationships. Grassroot endeavors that promote collaborative policy formation are very important to help individuals and communities control their destiny.


If you have any optimistic things about Southern WV, please let us know and we may update this list or make new additions.


Thank you for reading.

Travis Stanley

President

Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration


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Within a year of becoming a social enterprise we at Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration have found our biggest market failure to be the huge divide that prevents connecting tourism attraction