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Working Paper

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Tourism has been playing an increasingly important role in the economic development and promotion for the state of West Virginia. However, how tourism resources are spatially distributed across all the state’s 55 counties has not received much attention. This study could be among the first in West Virginia to create a tourism resource inventory database at the county level, and to spatially examine tourism resource distribution patterns across all counties, based on the tourism resource quantity measured by size, length, or number, as well as on the quality determined by the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) through surveys of 191 visitors. Based on the data collected, a four-level amenity index is created using the standard deviation method and mapped using GIS. The study indicates that nature-based tourism resources are largely concentrated in the eastern or central eastern part of West Virginia centering around Pocahontas County, while cultural resources do not exhibit a distinct clustering pattern. In addition, the cultural resource distribution pattern not only visually resembles that associated with visitors’ travel spending, but also has a statistically significant correlation with travel spending after controlling the spatial dependence. That being said, there is no such relationship that exists between natural tourism resources and travel spending, suggesting that more efforts are needed in the future to develop and market nature-based tourism in those counties with higher levels of natural tourism resources, but lower levels of visitor spending. It also implies that natural tourism is not a major contributor to the local economy for most counties. Rather, other forms of tourism activities such as gambling generated a large portion of travel/tourism related revenues, despite this contribution being only limited to a few counties.