Originally published in Travel Pulse News by PATRICK CLARKE | DECEMBER 02, 2016
PHOTO: Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Tourist resorts in eastern Tennessee are reaching out to travelers in wake of devastating wildfires that ravagedthe region this week, killing at least 13 people, causing extensive property damage and prompting the evacuation of thousands of locals and visitors.
On Thursday, tourism officials in Pigeon Forge, home to Dollywood and other popular attractions near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, stressed the importance of visitors to the region’s recovery.
“Many of our city’s 6,000 residents, as well as those of our friends and family in Gatlinburg, are dependent on the tourism industry for jobs to care for themselves and their families,” said Pigeon Forge’s executive director of tourism Leon Downey in a statement. “As our communities move forward, our industry has an obligation to our residents and employees to encourage visitation to the area and sustain our businesses.”
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner echoed those sentiments in a press conference earlier this week. “If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg, come back and visit us,” he said Wednesday.
Dollywood theme park, which owner Dolly Parton announced Wednesday was spared in the wildfires, reopened Friday, the Winterfest festival remains on schedule and many of the other tourist hot spots in Pigeon Forge are operating as normal heading into the weekend.
Those who aren’t able to journey to eastern Tennessee this December can also help out by donating to The Dollywood Foundation’s My People Fund and other funds benefiting affected residents and local businesses, including the effort started by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Travelers can also donate goods and volunteer by reaching out to the call center established by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster daily at 866-586-4483.
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