Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he is as committed to a thriving tourism industry in West Virginia, as he has been throughout his career as a senator and former governor.
Rockefeller pointed to federal efforts at increasing travel to the state during a keynote speech Oct. 9 at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism in Shepherdstown.
"Tourism is vitally important to West Virginia's economy, and our state's pride," Rockefeller said. "As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, I have been able to pass legislation to support and expand tourism because of the enormous impact it has on local economies, creating jobs and opportunities for people all over West Virginia and around the country."
Studies show one out of every nine Americans is employed in support of tourism. And in West Virginia, the industry accounts for more than 44,000 jobs and $4 billion a year in consumer spending.
Amid statistics revealing a decline in 2.4 million overseas visitors to the United States in the last decade, Rockefeller championed the Travel Promotion Act, which seeks to bring more international visitors to the United States.
And recognizing that small businesses make up the bulk of West Virginia's tourism sector, Rockefeller this year introduced the Small Business Start-up Support Act, which would allow entrepreneurs to deduct up to $10,000 of their start-up costs-double what current law allows.
"We all know West Virginia is the most beautiful place in the world, and our people are second-to-none," Rockefeller said. "But we don't have a monopoly on exciting places to visit, or things to do. So in finding ways to bring more tourists to West Virginia, we need to work together, develop innovative strategies and harness new technologies to compete with other states, and other countries, for traveler's dollars."