Gatlinburg tourism officials working to get out message after wildfires

GATLINBURG (WATE) – Six months after the fires, people in some areas of the country and world still call Gatlinburg hotels and attractions to ask about the damage.

Mike Penn is from Kentucky and says he wasn’t sure how much of the city was left after seeing national coverage last November.

“We were seeing all of the flames above the city,” said Penn. “It was pretty much unbelievable. We didn’t know what to expect.”

He says part of the reason he and others like him were unsure was the coverage by the national media outlets.

Then they don’t do follow-ups on it,” sad Penn. “We don’t see what happened and see what the end results are afterwards. It’s like half told.”

In an effort to resolve some of the misconception about the damage, the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau invested an extra $2 million in marketing after the fires. The money went towards a testimonial spot and a public relations campaign. These efforts were geared towards the top feeder markets for the city.

Related: New tourism ad reassures visitors Gatlinburg is still open

“We did on air interviews and radio spots and visited with various publications so that we could spread the word that Gatlinburg is open for business and we want you to come back,” said Marci Claude with the CVB.

Lee Douglas of the Bearskin Lodge says their numbers are about where they were in 2014 and 15 and he is grateful for the city’s help.

“We’ve had people call from cities that we normally don’t get a lot of phone calls from saying they saw city officials on television in their area,” said Douglas. “We’re in more markets now than I think we’ve ever been.”

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