January 18, 2021
Gatlinburg is a small mountain town on the western border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A quaint mountain resort destination only two miles long by five miles wide and an easy, scenic drive from many major east coast cities. Gatlinburg survived the wildfires of 2016 and the community was once again thriving when the coronavirus pandemic caused a global shutdown. Family reunions, corporate retreats, weddings and annual conventions were cancelled and the community and tourism industry were once again under threat.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s Dan Date spoke with Pam Hill of Stony Brook Cabins in Gatlinburg about the impact of coronavirus on the Gatlinburg cabin rental market.
“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,”
As late spring and early summer approached, COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and tourists began returning in search of secluded escapes, natural isolation, outdoor adventures, camp fires and crisp mountain air. Road trips and drive-to destinations became the latest travel trend and rural and non-urban bookings began to surge.
“The number of people coming to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains I think went up dramatically,” Pam 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.”
The search data from 2020 shows that 90% of overall searches were for trips to rural areas with cabin rentals accounting for 33% of accommodation searches, an increase of 143% since 2019.
A Banner Year
Despite a second wave of the pandemic currently spreading across the US, reservations are not weakening and future projections are positive. The travel trends for 2021 show an increase of nearly 25% in the demand for cabin rentals as travelers are in search of secluded destinations and wide open spaces. Mountain cabin rentals are in demand and are the safest option for a vacation with easy isolation and social distancing.
Pam goes on to say, “It is already off the charts. 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.”
Stony Brook Cabins have had their best year yet since 2004, a banner year for the family business! They currently manage over 50 mountainside cabins scattered throughout Gatlinburg and are looking forward to further growth with an additional 8 units being built this year. They offer the most diverse inventory of vacation rental properties in the area ranging from luxurious southern mountain living on a country estate and enchanting mountain hot-tub cabins to secluded pet-friendly chalets nestled in the woods.
Gatlinburg is surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, over 500,000 acres of natural splendor and a mecca for lovers of the great outdoors. This year-round vacation destination boasts an abundance of man-made and natural attractions that allow for natural social distancing and a serene sense of calm.
The expansive outdoors features cascading waterfalls, award-winning trout fishing, whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River, biking on the Appalachian Trail, forested hiking trails, scenic drives through gorgeous mountain terrain and self-guided walks through orchards and vineyards. Families can enjoy safe family-friendly Gatlinburg attractions and activities such as the award-winning outdoor family theme park, Anakeesta, the Gatlinburg SkyBridge and SkyDeck, the scenic Ober Gatlinburg Ariel Tramway and seven unique shopping malls.
Valentine’s Day is around the corner, romance is in the air and the Smoky Mountains are calling. Spend your days exploring Gatlinburg, followed by evenings of romance, scenic sunsets, crackling outdoor firepits and soothing hot tub sessions overlooking romantic vistas … all from the privacy of your cozy Gatlinburg cabin rental.