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Business is booming in the East Tennessee rafting industry, store owners say

Even as the pandemic ebbs and flows, one business isn't feeling the effects — the rafting industry. Businesses are boasting back-to-back years of growth.

HARTFORD, Tenn. — Rafting season will wrap up soon and as East Tennessee approaches the final weeks of summer. The people behind the season said it was more than a successful year.

"This year exceeded last year. Again, I think people were looking for activities that were outdoors. They weren't up really close to people. And I think that paid off for us and the industry," said Brenda Shultz, a co-owner of Rafting in the Smokies.

They said that the year started off with some hesitancy and uncertainty. They wondered if people would walk through their doors and if enough would stop by to make them profitable.

"In the spring with COVID, we were very apprehensive. We didn't know if we were going to have a season," said Shultz.

She said the decision to follow safety protocols played into their success, not only for staff but for those coming to hit the river and go rafting.

"We decided we were going to follow all the CDC guidelines. And if people came that would carry us through," she said.

She says calling their season a success would be an understatement, after back-to-back years of growth.

"Phones were ringing and we had a great deal of repeat guests," she said. "Our phones were just going nuts ... I cannot tell you what a joyful time that was."

Now with the wind at their back and the current pushing them, they said next season can't get here fast enough 

"I feel like we're perfectly positioned for next season," said Shultz. "I think our guests will do the rest for us. They're going to come, we're going to take them, and they're going to come back with huge smiles."