Smoky Mountain Market Market Comeback Chart Daily Analysis

The data below is updated daily to visually show you how the market is doing and how close we are to business as usual in the Smoky Mountain Tourism Community

New Data Update Date Video

The all New Smoky Mountain Tourism COVID-19 Dashboard

Data in the new Smoky Mountain Tourism COVID-19 Dashboard is updated daily. The data updated daily to visually show you how the market is doing and how close we are to business as usual in the Smoky Mountain Tourism Community. Click on the button below to view the dashboard.

Smoky Mountain Market Timeline Of Events That Impact Tourism

Last Updated April 16, 2020

3/13/2020
Dollywood Postpones Grand Opening to Guests Until March 28
03/19/2020
Area Hotels Begin to Close (Inn on the River Closed This Day)
03/20/2020
Sevier County Leaders Request TN Dept of Health to Issues Orders for Closures of Restaurants and Bars (Requiring 50% Occupancy of Restaurants)

Theaters Announce Closure to May 9, Closure Begins March 21 (Comedy Barn, Hatfield & McCoy, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirates Voyage, Smoky Mountain Opry)

03/22/2020
Sevier County Leaders Request & Strongly Urge Non-Essential Businesses and Services to Close
03/23/2020
Dollywood Postpones Grand Opening TBA

West Virginia Announces Stay at Home Order

03/24/2020
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Closes to April 6

Dollywood Closes DreamMore Resort and Spa

03/25/2020
Kentucky Announces Healthy at Home Order - Re-Opening Date TBD
03/27/2020
Sevier County Government Leaders Ask Visitors to Put Vacation Plans on Hold

Kentucky Warns Residents Not to Travel to Tennessee

03/30/2020
Governor Bill Lee Issues Executive Order 21 and 22 Regarding Essential and Non-Essential Businesses

Virginia Issues Stay at Home Order Until June 10

03/31/2020
Sevier County Leaders Request Businesses to Stop Soliciting Guests for Vacations to Sevier County

Cabin Rental Companies Begin Blocking Calendar Dates to Prevent Vacations

04/01/2020
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Closure TBA with Expected Re-Opening May 1

Florida Announces Stay at Home Order through April 30

04/02/2020
Governor Bill Lee Issues Stay at Home Executive Order 23

Ohio Stay at Home Order Extended through May 1

04/06/2020
South Carolina Issues Stay at Home Order Effective Until TBD

Indiana Issues Stay at Home Order through April 20

04/08/2020
Georgia Extends Stay at Home Order through April 30
04/13/2020
Sevier County Extends Stay at Home Order to April 30 in Conjunction with Governor Bill Lee’s Extension of the Stay at Home Order, Order 27
04/20/2020
Gov. Lee: 'Vast majority' of businesses in Tennessee allowed to reopen May 1

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a news conference Monday he will not extend the state’s Safer at Home order past April 30 meaning the “vast majority” of businesses in 89 of the 95 counties in Tennessee will be allowed to reopen May 1.

Smoky Mountain Tourism Market Overview Webinar Data April 13, 2020

In the past 3-4 weeks, our industry has been majorly impacted. We have been reacting to a crisis that continues to evolve by the day, if not by the hour. We wanted to bring you some data that may help you make some decisions in your business and give you some insights on how the Smoky Mountain market is doing in regard to tourism.

As of April 12, 2020, we have written over 17 articles about the tourism and vacation rental industry. If you have not checked them out, you can CLICK HERE. We are here to serve you and help protect your business by taking the most minimal impact as possible. We hope you find this information helpful.

Market Demand in the Smoky Mountains by Industry

This data is by city and by industry. This data is showing you the amount of people searching online. Since over 90% of travel is researched online, this is a good indicator of how healthy a market is.

Data Source: Google Trends

March and April graph for people looking

Revenue by Industry

This data is revenue by tourism industry and has been compiled from all 3 cities – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. The data is based on people checking into hotels or vacation rentals. For attractions, data is based on actual purchase date, but keep in mind that attractions tend to see much closer “look to book” windows.

Data Source: Market Data Pulled from Google E-commerce Data for the Smoky Mountain Market

March and April 2020 revenue
Conversion Rates Drop after COVID graph

Conversion Rate Shift Since the COVID-19 Impact On Tourism

This data is the conversation rate shift by industry and has been compiled from all 3 cities – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. The data is based on people checking into hotels or vacation rentals. For attractions, data is based on actual purchase date, but keep in mind that attractions tend to see much closer “look to book” windows.

Data Source: Market Data Pulled from Google E-commerce Data for the Smoky Mountain Market

What Our Tourists Think About the Impact from COVID-19

This data was collected from people who have visited and have returned at least once per year. This is how they feel about COVID-19 and the impact on travel to the Smoky Mountains.

Data Source: Market Data Pulled from a survey of people who visit the Smoky Mountains

Expected Impact of COVID graph
Marketing Activities graph

Marketing Effort Shift in the Smoky Mountains

Where did the Smoky Mountain tourism market shift budgets to?

Data Source: Market Data Pulled from over 35 IMEG Marketing Clients 

Vacation Rental Demand in the Smoky Mountains by City

This data is by city and is based on people looking to travel and stay in a cabin rental.

Data Source: Google Trends

March and April demand for cabins graph
Pace for Vacation Rentals after COVID 19

Vacation Rental Pace

This is revenue pace based on check in date (pre-books).

Data Source: IMEG Data Pulled from Over 35 Vacation Rental Clients, Anonymized.

When People Are Looking For Vacation Rentals

This data shows us when people have been booking since March 23, 2020. These are new reservations – not rescheduled reservations. Market search volume, or what we call intent, started to decline on March 11 then continued to drop until March 23 and has remained flat ever since.

Data Source: IMEG Data Pulled from Over 35 Vacation Rental Clients, Anonymized.

When people are booking since COVID 19

Data Source: Google Trends

March and April graph

Hotel Demand in the Smoky Mountains by City

Market search volume, or what we call intent, started to decline on March 11 then continued to drop until March 23 and has remained flat ever since.

Data Source: Google Trends

Hotel Revenue in the Smoky Mountains

This is how much hotel revenue has dropped in Sevier County including all 3 cities, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville.

Data Source: IMEG Data Pulled from Over 20 hotel clients, Anonymized. Google E-commerce

Hotel Revenue graph
March and April demand graph

Attraction Demand in the Smoky Mountains

This data is by city and is based on people looking for attractions in each respective city.

Data Source: Google Trends

Attraction Revenue in the Smoky Mountains

Revenue decline for attractions in Sevier County, TN during COVID-19.

Data Source: IMEG Data Pulled from Over 10 Attraction Clients, Anonymized.

March and April graph of people looking for Attractions
Top 10 Markets Due to Lift Stay-at-Home Orders

When States are Due to Lift Stay-At-Home Orders in Our Top 10 Feeder Markets

Watching our feeder markets is important. We may be open for business, but our visitors may still be under Stay-At-Home Orders. They may not be able to travel which impacts our revenue and market overall.

Who is our visitor?

It is always important to know the demographics and psychographics of your visitor, but it is critical we know and watch for shifts now more than ever.

graph

By Age: We may see a slow down for 3-6 months of visitors over the age of 65.

Decision Maker by Gender?

This is a pie chart of decision makers (who plans Smoky Mountain vacations) by gender.

gender of people who took the COVID survey

Who is our visitor by state?

The darker the blue, the more market share there is in that state for the Smoky Mountains. We will want to watch Stay-At-Home Orders being lifted to help us predict pent-up demand.

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 9.23.06 PM

By State: The darker the state, the more visitation from that state.

Who will recover first?

We predict travel will come back in the following order: 1. Drive-to Markets 2. Leisure Markets 3. Vacation Rentals 4. Hotels 5. Outdoor Attractions 6. Indoor Attractions 7. Fly-To National Markets 8.Group Travel 9. Business Travel 10. International Travel 11. Cruise Ship Travel

First To Recover Smoky Mountains

Who will recover third?

We predict travel will come back in the following order: 1. Drive-to Markets 2. Leisure Markets 3. Vacation Rentals 4. Hotels 5. Outdoor Attractions 6. Indoor Attractions 7. Fly-To National Markets 8.Group Travel 9. Business Travel 10. International Travel 11. Cruise Ship Travel

Third to Recover in the Smoky Mountains

Who will recover second?

We predict travel will come back in the following order: 1. Drive-to Markets 2. Leisure Markets 3. Vacation Rentals 4. Hotels 5. Outdoor Attractions 6. Indoor Attractions 7. Fly-To National Markets 8.Group Travel 9. Business Travel 10. International Travel 11. Cruise Ship Travel

Second To Recover Smoky Mountains

Who will recover fourth?

We predict travel will come back in the following order: 1. Drive-to Markets 2. Leisure Markets 3. Vacation Rentals 4. Hotels 5. Outdoor Attractions 6. Indoor Attractions 7. Fly-To National Markets 8.Group Travel 9. Business Travel 10. International Travel 11. Cruise Ship Travel

Fourth to recover in the Smoky Mountains

New Opportunities

We believe the Smoky Mountain tourism market is in a sweet spot for various reasons. The Smoky Mountains are a drive-to, leisure market which we predict will be the first to recover. We also have some huge, new opportunities.

Larger Theme Park Shift

People who can’t, or choose not to, visit larger theme parks, like Disney World, who may be shut down longer than us.

Pent-Up Demand

We believe that the pent-up demand will be huge after all this settles. As we have mentioned, the Smoky Mountain area will be one of the first travel market types to recover, so we need to be sure our marketing, business infrastructure and new messaging match the travel behavior shifts, so we are ready as soon as the market is ready and open.

International Travel

We think we can pick up some market share from international travelers who love the outdoors. These visitors will spend more and stay longer if we can get in front of them and let them know the Smoky Mountains are a great place to visit this year.

Cruise Lines

Many of the cruise ships have stopped cruises until November and may extend that date even further out. Millions of people had cruises scheduled and are now looking for a safe place to travel, not internationally. While most cruise budgets are less than international travel. The Smoky Mountains are a lower budget destination which is ideal for a vacation alternative.

Outdoor Travel Experience

We believe people will lean more toward outdoor experiences for a while after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Smoky Mountain area is an amazing place to promote outdoor experiences and attract a potentially new visitor who hasn’t heard of us.

Smaller Hotels & Vacation Rentals

We believe people will be looking for small hotels and vacation rentals to continue some form of social distancing for quite some time. Unlike larger travel destinations, like Las Vegas, the Smoky Mountain area has smaller hotels (150 rooms or less). Our cabin rentals will also help us be a destination of choice for the next 12-18 months because people will feel like they are still being socially distant by staying in a cabin rental.

6 Core Shifts in Travel Behavior

Below are what we predict will be the top shifts in travel in the Smoky Mountain tourism market. 

1. Flexible Cancellations & Refunds

With the uncertainty of whether or not there will be another round of COVID-19, coupled with the media’s coverage of businesses not giving refunds or cancellations in a crisis, the consumer is aware and may choose a company based on cancellation and refund policies – something they did not do before.

2. Guests Want to Know How You Will Keep Them Safe

We predict a shift in people wanting to know how you will protect them from being exposed to COVID-19. They will want to know you screen employees, clean your facility and take all measures to protect them.

3. They Will Want to Know About Your Extra Cleaning Measures

Clearly stating how you clean and how it specifically reduces the risk of exposing guests to COVID-19 will be key to revenue and conversion in your travel business.

4. Reviews

Reviews have always been a very important part of the booking process. In fact, over 71% of travelers use reviews to help make a travel decision. We believe reviews will become an even greater percentage of decision-making. They will look to see how you handled refunds, cancellations and rescheduling during the pandemic as an indicator of how they may be handled in the future. Be certain your reviews are positive and cleaned up before the pent-up demand starts to travel again. You will want to make sure negative reviews do not impact your conversions. Also note, if you are on platforms like airbnb review algorithms may be off so be sure and monitor your rankings to be sure showing up on page 1 or 2 in your respective categories.

5. Social Proof

People trust people. If you have good reviews, be sure you have them showing on your assets, such as your website, because people will rely more on social proof to book travel after this shift. If you don’t have good reviews, you need to work on getting some to improve your chances to convert after the market reopens.

6. Group Travel

Group travel for sports, business and motor coach will be slower to return to normal than individual and family travel, so be sure you adjust marketing and budgets accordingly.

Indicators the Market is Coming Back

Below is a list of the top indicators to watch to determine when the tourism market will come back. We have listed them below in sequential order by indicator.

Previous epidemics or recessionary events have depressed travel demand for 4-7 months before beginning to recover, according to Dufry (DUFN) and Amadeus (AMS). Aggressive containment measures with an immediate severe economic impact could help contain the virus spread, leading to lesser long-term, negative, economic implications. Amadeus recently noted that previous disease outbreaks recovered 6-7 months after the peak of the outbreak. Drawing on the SARS experience in China, Trip.com’s (TCOM) second-quarter 2003 revenue fell 42% sequentially and bounced back 196% sequentially in the third quarter. However, we don’t think recovery from COVID-19 will be as quick as SARS, which was not as widespread globally.

1. Stay-At-Home Orders Lifted in the Top 10 Feeder Markets

We need to watch these dates as people in our feeder markets are unable to travel. We may be open, but they’re unable to travel.

2. Search Volume

People have to look before they book and we will see an increase in people searching online before they book. This will allow us to see the indication that there is an intent to travel to our market.

3. Revenue from OTAs

While we need to keep our core marketing efforts going and not cut any marketing assets that have a positive Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), we do need to let the big companies (the ones with more data and more money) give us some indication of people willing to travel and book. We want to watch this before we turn on our paid ads, like Google AdWords, at full scale. Watch your distribution channels, like OTAs such as booking.com, VRBO, and airbnb. When you start seeing a steady influx of reservations from them, you will know it is time so start scaling up your marketing efforts for direct revenue.

4. Direct Bookings on Your Site

Watch your website closely for an increase in traffic from organic search and people actually booking from it. This will be the first indication the market is back for you. You can set up a Google Alert (if you use Google Analytics) to let you know the moment it happens, so you don’t miss big opportunities to be one of the first to market to the demand.

5. Booking Windows

Pay close attention to these metrics once you do see demand start to come back. 3 places to watch: (1) the booking to arrival analysis in your point of sale or property management system (2) the days to transaction in Google Analytics and (3) Google E-commerce conversion rate. You probably are just coming out of a cash flow injury so watching the core marketing metrics Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) is CRITICAL. CPA is critical to ensure your marketing assets are doing what they should doing – creating revenue that creates profit that creates cash. You probably need cash now more than ever, so be certain you are watching this metric if nothing else. At the first inflection point in the market, in mid-March, we saw search slowly declining and pace was slower than conversion. We may see that again – people were looking and not booking.

6. Pace

Watch your pace reports by month and if you can, by weekend. IMEG tracks this weekly for vacation rentals. It is key you watch this so you know which marketing levers to throw to ensure we get good ROI and cash from our marketing assets.

Smoky Mountain Tourism Market Conclusion

In conclusion, we believe the Smoky Mountain market will be one of the first to rebound. We do think this impact on tourism recover in phases. Each phase, with the first one beginning around March 18th, will take 4-6 days. Once we do see some of the data start to turn in our favor, we believe like most things, from a physics perspective, will follow at same timeline. We see consistent data to show the turnaround has begun plus the amount of time it has been since around mid-March 2020 also means the turnaround is near. The good news: we do have some indicators and data to help us know and we can get a better understanding and make better predictions. The one thing we must consider are opportunities to be prepared for pent-up demand and preserve cash flow since we may see more rounds of this. I would be cautious and watch our fall season and revenue closely because we may see a slight or mid-range return of this pandemic in the fall. 

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