By Ben Lawson
Sevier County attractions are ready for another solid Labor Day weekend, although the unexpected visitor surge resulting from Hurricane Irene has mostly subsided.
Many travelers, tourists changing their destinations and residents fleeing inland, poured into Pigeon Forge hotels and cabins this past weekend to avoid the harsh weather along the coast. As the busy Labor Day weekend approaches, however, officials are expecting their normal business to continue.
Leon Downey with the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism said that the hotels and businesses he surveyed all indicated they were not expecting any more increased traffic due to the weather.
“(They) hadn’t seen any hurricane interest or inquires for Labor Day weekend,” he said.
One location that might see more activity after Irene is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, according to park official Nancy Gray. She indicated that their 10 major campgrounds are likely to fill.
“With the issues on the beaches, we may see more people coming to the mountains,” she said.
Even without weather driving travelers inland, Labor Day is traditionally a strong weekend for Sevier County. Ray Ogle, manager of The Inn at Christmas Place, said that while they typically see more business during a strong storm, that won’t play a factor this year.
“We’re already full, so we’re expecting a good weekend,” he said.
A more pressing concern stems from the shaky economy. Downey said that 2008 was the first year business had been down on Labor Day, but the area bounced back last year. Gray acknowledged the effect on traffic in the National Park during the slump, but said it wouldn’t be noticeable because of the crowds.
The positive economic effect will reach all the way to Seymour, where Ernest Ford, owner of the Way Oma Motel, said he was booked for the weekend. Ogle indicated the same was true for The Inn at Christmas Place, as it has been the past few Labor Day weekends.
“I think Labor Day will be good for everybody this year,” he said.
No Stormy Labor Day this Year
By Ben Lawson