Ghost Town’s economic ripple has hopes high

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

It appears that the re-opening of Ghost Town in the Sky on Memorial Day weekend has made the town of Maggie Valley anything but.

Lodging businesses, restaurants and retail outlets in Maggie report a marked increase in business from the same time last year.

“We definitely feel that the re-opening of Ghost Town has had an effect on the number of visitors to our area,” said Ashley Mullis of the Maggie Valley Visitor’s Bureau, which has seen an increase of 40 percent over last year in the number of people walking through its doors. The Visitor’s Bureau has hired more staff to keep up with the flow of traffic.

Hotel owners like Jeff Smith of Jonathan Creek Inn are also staying busy with the multitude of visitors.

“From the first of June until today, we’re up 25 percent from last year and running full almost every night,” he said.

Smith said his phones have been busier than last year, and that he has seen a significantly higher number of people walking into his hotel without reservations.

Derrick Cole, owner of Apple Cover Inn, echoed Smith’s sentiments. Cole said that the first weekend in June last year, very few of the lodging providers in the valley were full. This year, the majority had no vacancies.

Down the street at the Four Seasons Inn, owner Beverly Robinson, who runs the inn with her husband, can’t complain either.

“Business has been great — tonight’s the first night we’ve not been full since the beginning of June,” she said.

Though business owners were hesitant to attribute the increase in customers directly to the re-opening of the amusement park, Eaglenest Entertainment General Manager Selina Keller believes it has made a difference.

“Ghost Town has definitely been a shot of energy as far as bringing people to the Valley,” said Keller.

Several business owners said that Ghost Town has definitely brought in more families with young children.

“We didn’t have families when Ghost Town was closed — we’ve always had the older people, but I definitely see a difference in the families coming through the shop,” said Maggie Mountaineer Crafts’ Sue Pendley. Pendley also said that business has been “up every month from last year.”

The families coming to Maggie Valley are staying longer. According to Mullis, she and co-workers are “seeing a lot more families with an itinerary that includes a visit to Ghost Town one day, and then sightseeing and outdoor activities on the other days they are here.”

“I think Ghost Town has a lot to do with it – it’s an asset to the whole area, not just Maggie Valley,” Pendley said.

Since its May 25 re-opening, more than 20,000 people have visited Ghost Town, according to sales and marketing manager David J. King.

“Our ownership group is very pleased with the numbers so far. I think they are above what we expected,” King said.

King said July 4 is expected to be Ghost Town’s biggest weekend in terms of numbers, and that most, if not all, of the park’s attractions should be up and running with full service by that date.


What’s still not working

Officials at Ghost Town are still trying to work out a few kinks. State inspectors have been up in the past week to check out the roller coaster, which should be operating in one to two weeks. The incline railway continues to be worked on and is awaiting parts that had to be specially manufactured for it. Heritage Square, a pavilion featuring a heritage museum, gift shop, restaurant and craft area, will open in the next two weeks. The park is no longer discounting tickets since the majority of its attractions are up and running

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