GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — For cabin rental companies in Sevier County, business had never been stronger although that was not the initial projection when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Tennessee.
In April, when most businesses in East Tennessee shut down to slow the spread of the virus, the tourism industry in Sevier County took a big hit and cabin rental owners were scared.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare tells us how one company in Gatlinburg, it’s been a banner year.
Stony Brook Cabins boasts 52 small and large cabins scattered throughout Gatlinburg, with eight more to be built this year. The pandemic has changed the way people are traveling, so the company is growing.
Tourists started returning to Gatlinburg in late spring and early summer of 2020 once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Although most conventions in the mountain resort were canceled due to the virus, families and couples continued to arrive.
Many chose to rent cabins. Stony Brook Cabin rentals manage more than 50 mountainside units. Pam Hill says the family business had its best year ever in says 2020.
“The number of people coming to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains I think went up dramatically,” Pam Hill, Stony Brook co-owner, said. “A lot of that is due to the virus. People not being able to travel overseas. Not being able to travel by air or go on cruises. They needed to drive. They needed to drive to a destination.”
In mid-September, we met Tommy Holland and Donna Dalling from Detroit Michigan. The couple said they felt safer renting a cabin.
“We didn’t want to be around anybody, so that’s one of the reasons we are here,” Holland said.
Back in April when everything was shut down, cabin rental owners were worried.
“We didn’t know what the rest of the year would look like. We were afraid we would be shut down all year really. With that kind of pandemic,” Pam Hill said.
Even now with another surge in the pandemic, reservations here have shown no sign of weakening. The projection is looking good for rentals in 2021.
“It is already off the charts. It is going to be a great year,” Pam Hill said. “It’s going to be another great year. And for a lot of the same reasons. Those same people are not able to fly or take cruises. So, I think we are going to benefit from all those travelers who want to have a drive to their destination. And we are it. Those who came this year fell in love with the mountains. They’re going to want to come back to the mountains.”
Several cabin rental businesses in Gatlinburg told us their bookings were very strong last year, too, even with the pandemic and they’re looking good again in this new year.
January is traditionally a “slow” month for the industry, but with Valentine’s Day next month, reservations are picking up again.
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