Sevier Co. tourism numbers climb, park shutdown impacts figures

Sevier Co. tourism numbers climb, park shutdown impacts figures

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New figures show tourism in Sevier County has increased from last year. New figures show tourism in Sevier County has increased from last year.
The study found in Jan. through Aug. 2013, versus the same period in 2012, people spent more on restaurants, retail, attractions and lodging in the county. The study found in Jan. through Aug. 2013, versus the same period in 2012, people spent more on restaurants, retail, attractions and lodging in the county.
The study forecasts tourism spending will increase by three percent in 2014. The study forecasts tourism spending will increase by three percent in 2014.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - New figures show tourism in Sevier County has increased from last year.  

The findings were put together by Dr. Steven Morse, the director of the Hospitality & Tourism program at Western Carolina University.  

Morse found in Jan. through Aug. 2013, versus the same period in 2012, people spent more on restaurants, retail, attractions and lodging in the county.

Sevier County had a two percent increase in hotel room sales during that period, according to Morse's study.  

The study also looked at the impact caused by the federal government shutdown.  

Tourism took a dive during the first two weeks of October during the government shutdown when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was closed.  

"The federal government definitely had an impact on the number of rooms sold in Sevier County," said Morse.  

The study shows the number of hotel room nights sold during the first half of October (Oct 1-15,2013) were down 6.1 percent---- compared to the same period last year.   Hotel owners felt the effect during the park closure.  

"We were probably down as much as15 percent, but we were able to recover during the last part of the month," said Logan Coykendall, president of Hospitality Solutions

 The findings show that once the federal government re-opened, tourists came back to Sevier County at nearly the same rate as 2012.

The study shows during the last half of October, when the federal shutdown ended and the park was re-opened, the number of room nights sold decreased by 1.9 percent during the same 15 day period in 2012.  

Michigan resident Tracy Vanderheide and her family booked hotel reservations for their five day stay in Pigeon Forge before the shutdown, but still decided to follow through on their plans.  

"You wouldn't even notice there was a shutdown less than a month ago," said Vanderheide.

The study forecasts tourism spending will increase by three percent in 2014. The increase is attributed to stable gas prices and stronger leisure travel demand with an improving economy in major feeder cities.  

Other factors include attractions like new LeConte Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, the new Rocky Top Sports Complex in Gatlinburg and the Island in Pigeon Forge.

Other findings: (Year-to-date tourist spending: Jan-Aug 2013 vs. Jan-Aug 2012)

  • 10.5 percent increase in spending on theaters & shows (including diner theaters)
  • 7.6 percent increase in spending  in retail stores (other than craft and gift shops)
  • 3.8 percent increase in spending on restaurants and food service
  • 3.2 percent increase in spending on amusements (theme parks, rides, attractions)
  • No increase in spending in outlet stores.
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