Community Resources & Economic Development

Tourism First Impressions

Program Background

A Ten Year Plan for Tourism for West Virginia developed by AECOM and Associates in 2012 called for an increase in technical assistance including implementing or expanding voluntary secret shopper and peer review programs and providing assessments of tourism potential. The Tourism First Impressions Program is designed to help a destination learn about existing strengths and weaknesses as seen through the eyes of the first-time visitor. The program brings neutral, unbiased visitors to a region to assess destination attributes. Itineraries for groups of visitors are developed to assess current and potential tourist sites. An established manual is used by assessors to record their observations. A report of destination strengths and weaknesses is presented to the client organization. The findings can form the basis for future development.

What will I learn from the assessment?

The program has revealed tourism opportunities to destination leadership some of which include: signage, website improvements, hospitality training, lack of community information, trail system improvements, unsightly billboards, need for additional food and beverage options, additional lodging, and lack of recycling opportunities. Post program evaluations revealed that the program provided useful information about strengths and weaknesses including an opportunity to double check performance levels.

What previous clients are saying

“Great program. I believe it gave me insight as to where I needed to try and make improvements. The outside perspective helped our board understand the need for a strategic plan.”

Craig White – General Manager, Grand Vue Park, Marshall County, WV

“It was such a pleasure to be a part of the First Impressions Assessment. The information we received from the program has been valuable in helping us prepare our marketing plan in regards to how visitors perceive our area and what they are looking for in a vacation destination.”

Marianne Taylor – Executive Director, Summersville Convention and Visitors Bureau

Program Cost

Assessment scope and the associated costs vary based on the particular needs of a destination. WVU Extension Service asks destinations to help cover a portion of program costs. Call or email CRED’s Tourism Specialist to discuss you particular needs and funding options that may exist to bring this program to your destination.

Who Sponsors the Program?

  • Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus
  • Local or regional economic development organizations
  • Individual tourism facilities/attractions
  • Any organization or destination planning for the future

How do I get started?

Contact Doug Arbogast, WVU Extension Service’s Rural Tourism Specialist, at 304-293-8686 or doug.arbogast@mail.wvu.edu if you would like to discuss your interests.