Pigeon Forge's Department of Tourism wants to draw both old and new visitors to the area this spring and summer. The department launched a campaign to draw tourism to the region, after devastating fires swept through Sevier County just more than three months ago.
The city launched a study to determine how the fires might impact the tourism industry in the future. That study showed that 10% of Pigeon Forge's "target" visitors said they were less likely to visit the region in the aftermath of the fires.
In response to the study, the city and its tourism department created an advertising campaign to recruit tourists. The aggressive marketing strategy includes TV and radio appearances and advertisements and sponsored social media content, all aimed at creating awareness that the city was "largely unaffected" by those wildfires.
According to Sevier County Emergency Management director John Matthews, 19 buildings in Pigeon Forge were damaged, compared to 1,189 in Gatlinburg and 1,337 in Sevier County.
The cities officials have chosen to target include: Atlanta, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Chicago, Cincinatti, Greenville, Asheville, Lexington, Louisville, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, the Tri-Cities and Washington D.C. Tourism officials said they are putting a particularly heavy focus on Atlanta because it is a "feeder" city for the entire region.
Since the plan launched in January, tourism leaders said they have seen an improvement. Pigeon Forge social media pages have gained 44,000 followers since the beginning of the campaign, and 40,000 people have requested digital travel guides for the area.
The state and the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development have also dedicated $700,000 to a recovery campaign. Pigeon Forge leaders said it is intended to "supplement everything that Pigeon Forge and our Sevier County partners have underway."