The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority may be slimming down. Eventually.
“It’s in discussion,” said Robert Jumper, chairman of the tourism authority.
The Jackson TDA was launched by county commissioners and is charged with marketing the area and attracting tourist dollars. The tourism board currently consists of 15 members, all hailing from various pockets of the area’s tourism-related businesses.
For the past few years, the Blue Ridge Breakaway has lured cyclists to Haywood for a ride through the mountains. The big attraction is the sweeping views to be had along the route.
“They’re wanting to get up on the Parkway,” explained Melissa Tinsley, who coordinates events for the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce and is charged with the logistics of the annual Breakaway.
There’s also another pretty big attraction. “Tater-mater” sandwiches.
At 7:30 a.m., darkness is just barely beginning to lift from the pre-dawn fields and forest of Cataloochee Valley. Joe Yarkovich steers his National Park Service vehicle through the valley and past a herd of elk bedded down in a field just past the ranger station. A handful of cars already lines the road, their occupants standing bundled outside holding binoculars and long-lensed cameras. We pass a few more fields, empty of both elk and people, before reaching a pull-off near the Caldwell House. An impressive bull and his harem of cows are practically on the road, close enough to toss a rock at. Or, more importantly, to make a great photo. I tighten my grip on the camera.
“That’s the bull I was looking for,” says Yarkovich, a Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologist who specializes in elk. This particular elk had lost his radio collar when his neck swelled during mating season, called the rut — for that reason, Yarkovich typically replaces collars on male calves with larger ones as the animals mature.
The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority is pursuing a leader, someone to act as the organization’s executive director. The workload is becoming more than volunteer board members can handle.
“Some of us feel, and I feel, it’s going to be a full-time job,” Robert Jumper, head of Jackson’s TDA, said earlier this month.
With park funding falling and visitation increasing, keeping those iconic views open along the 46 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway in Haywood County — without breaking the bank — is a challenge. Fast-growing trees and shrubs grow up around the overlooks irrespective of budgets, so when Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods visited the Haywood Tourism Development Authority’s board meeting last week, it was with a view to talk about how to make those dollars stretch.
In a never-ending quest to lure tourists to Haywood County, the county tourism agency has once again changed the logo and slogan that will appear in its marketing and advertising materials.
The Haywood County Tourism Authority is exploring whether to close its two visitor centers in Waynesville and Maggie Valley, questioning whether money to run the sites could be better spent luring tourists in the first place rather than itinerary planning once they arrive.
The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority is pretty sure it needs to start searching for an executive director to help head up the organization.
“We believe we’re at the point where someone wakes up in the morning and this is what they do,” said Clifford Meads, chair of the TDA’s marketing committee.
After contracting with Magellan Strategy Group in May to come up with a five-to-ten-year marketing and management strategy, the Haywood Tourism Development Authority discussed their ideas for turning that report into a two-year action plan to boost the county’s place in the tourism world.
After passing state inspections, Ghost Town in the Sky opened for the season on the Fourth of the July. The Maggie Valley amusement park — open Friday through Monday — is reporting an opening weekend attendance total of more than 7,500.