By PHIL KABLER
An unveiling Tuesday by Gov. Jim Justice of the first of what is envisioned as multiple commercial semitruck trailers and box trucks that will be wrapped with advertising to promote West Virginia tourism raised a number of questions.
On Wednesday, Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby provided some answers.
What is the total budget for the new tourism promotion?
Ruby: The budget for the promotion will be based on the number of participants in the program. Matheny Motors was the first West Virginia company to volunteer for the program. They donated the space on the truck. Our cost was $7,047, paid to Morgantown Printing and Binding, for the truck wrap itself.
We are planning to do multiple trucks next time, so we suspect the cost will decrease. The work will be done by the lowest bidder.
Are trucking companies, businesses, or independent truckers paid to display the ads on their vehicles? If so, how much per vehicle?
Ruby: No, Matheny Motors volunteered to give us this exposure at no cost. The state has no intention of paying companies to drive the trucks.
(According to records in the state Auditor's Office Vista system, Matheny Motors has done more than $29 million of business with the state since 2014.)
In the announcement, it was stated that the first truck will travel on a daily route through West Virginia, from Parkersburg to Beckley, to Huntington, and back to Parkersburg. Is that the truck's normal delivery route, or is it running that route specifically as a tourism promotion. If the latter, is the driver and/or truck owner being paid to run that route?
Ruby: The truck is running its normal delivery route at no cost (to the state).
Ruby went on to say that the program gives Tourism a unique opportunity to add low-cost touchpoints in key travel markets.
"Although the first truck will travel in-state, other trucks will travel outside the state," she said, adding, "By wrapping trucks with beautiful imagery featuring uniquely West Virginia activities, we hope more and more people will begin to consider West Virginia as an 'almost heaven' vacation destination."
Ruby said that, compared to costs of traditional forms of advertising, the truck wraps are a relatively inexpensive way to reach a large audience. She said each truck wrap will feature imagery depicting state travel and tourism activities, along with the address of the West Virginia tourism website, www.WVtourism.com.
"It's our hope that folks will see the truck and be inspired to learn more about all our great state has to offer," Ruby said.