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Great Smoky National Park Resort Area’s Plan To Reopen – Step By Step

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National park in the United States, averaging 11.5 million visitors annually, 2019 numbers were historic at 12.9 million visitors. The Grand Canyon averages less than 7 million, and Yellow Stone just under 5 million for perspective. The GSNP generates, on average, 750 million in tourist dollars annually. However, in 2018-2019, it boasted 953 million in tourism and supported 13,737 jobs year-round locally. The central location of the park is nestled in Sevier county, which is surrounded by the Tri-Cities of Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge. COVID-19 drastically reduced the 2.5 billion dollar tourism industry and dramatically impacted the economic health of the area. Dolly Parton ‘s famous amusement park, “DollyWood,” located in the county, has recently laid off temporarily over 600 employees. Here’s Gatlinburg’s plan to reopen next week, April 27th and 29th.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has released the state guidelines, and Sevier County leaders applied additional ones in preparation for businesses to come back online. There will be a brief staggering with Restaurants opening on Monday, followed by retailers doing so on Wednesday. Both may only experience a 50% occupancy at any time. Here is the current status of the reopening:

For restaurants:

• Wear face coverings and gloves
• Report any symptoms of illness to supervisor
• Follow daily sanitation protocols
• Limit occupancy to 50% of seating capacity
• Space tables 6 feet apart
• Limit seating to 6 per table
• Use social distancing standards in waiting areas
• Keep bar areas closed
• No live music
• Screen customers with basic questions about COVID-19 symptoms

For retailers:

• Wear dedicated cloth face coverings, gloves, and other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC
• Report any symptoms of illness to supervisor
• Provide training on personal protective equipment based on CDC guidelines
• Sanitize hands with soap and/or hand sanitizer
• Stagger shifts, breaks, and meals to maintain social distancing Protecting Customers
• Limit customer occupancy to 50% of store capacity
• Customers should wear face coverings inside stores
• Consider shopping hours for the elderly, medically vulnerable, and health care workers
• Establish one-way aisles and traffic patterns for social distancing
• Increase curbside, pickup, and delivery service options
• Prompt customers regarding the importance of social distancing facilities, as set forth by CDC guidelines.

Sevier County officials strongly recommend closing all businesses by 11 p.m, encourage contactless payment, cleaning credit car machines between each use, and emailing receipts when possible. There will continue to be a hold on aggressive marketing tourism for the area as it gets acclimated to reopening and access risk as we go. The goal is to ramp up in phases and hopefully instill confidence in successful measures that will attract tourists back to the majestic resort area. Many private owners indicate they may use temperature checks on customers as well.

Citizens of the county recognize nature as a healing power for the body and mind but are fully accepting of the risk that cases may uptick as reopening progresses.

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One Comment

  1. The requirement that “No Live Music” seems ridiculous to me. Isn’t it music that calms the savage beast? And many of individual freedom lovers are savage in their love of freedom. Closeness in dancing to live music generally only involves two people, which falls within the arbitrary 6 person mandate for collectivization. Sorry, public gathering.

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