Pigeon Forge approves online booking engine

Site will direct visitors to businesses in city
Oct. 31, 2013 @ 11:41 PM

The city’s tourism website will soon have a booking engine designed to keep more online visitors staying in local hotels, campgrounds, cabins and condos.

The site currently offers outside links to those lodging businesses, and officials believe that’s led some visitors to go to other sites and wind up staying outside the city. In their eyes, that costs the city tax revenues it could have claimed and costs the businesses customers they would have had.

By adding a booking engine that lets visitors find hotels inside the city, schedule and pay for their stay without ever leaving the site, they believe they’ll retain more of that money.

City Commission approved the measure at Monday’s regular meeting.

“This is about our website being competitive with the other tourist destinations in the area,” said Leon Downey, director of the department of tourism.

Local lodging business owners, including campground, cabin and hotel owners, have indicated they support the measure. The Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association voted unanimously to support the move several years ago.

The businesses will have the chance to have their facilities included on the engine at the times of their choosing, and to control how many of their facilities are available. The booking engine will collect a fee from each booking.

City officials had initially discussed developing a booking engine in house to make sure that the site served all the city’s lodging businesses. At the time, it was difficult to find a single commercial booking engine that worked with hotels, campgrounds, cabin rentals and condos. But Downey said that’s no longer the case, and he was comfortable with the city’s choice.

The city is contracting with USDM, the company that handles the city’s online marketing, to oversee the booking engine, and will be using an engine called VacationRoost.

Also Monday, the commission approved;

  • Final reading of amendments to the city’s regulations for parade permits, which now allow for parades in August
  • Donation of 1,738 books to Friends of the Pigeon Forge Public Library
  • Extension of the interlocal agreement to oversee Sevier Solid Waste
  • Improvements to the entrance to the Island project, including crosswalks and stop bars
  • The program for Wilderness Wildlife Week 2014
  • A contract for payment in lieu of property tax for Sevier County Electric System

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com