New software connecting visitors to lodging

Hospitality Association says 280 rooms booked for first event through program
Aug. 28, 2013 @ 04:13 PM
The new software intended to help connect people attending events at the LeConte Center or other city events with local lodging has already been used to book 280 room nights for the center’s first event.
 
The city and the Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association are working together on the new housing bureau, which helps place on their Internet sites to let attendees book rooms at nearby hotels, cabins or other lodging.
 
The city purchased the software, which is already in place, while the PFHA will oversee the program.
 
They’re already using the program to sell rooms for the International Gift Expo, which will be the first beg event at the new events center after it opens in a few weeks. So far, they’ve booked 280 room nights for the event.
 
“That’s $25,000 in revenues at eight properties,” said Leon Downey, director of tourism for the city.
 
The exposition had formerly been held solely at the Sevierville Events Center. This year, it will be held at both the LeConte Center and the Sevierville Events Center. Many attendees have already been booking rooms at the same hotel for several years, Downey noted.
 
“This group has been coming for several years, so they’re going to stay in the rooms they’ve stayed in for years,” Downey said.
 
Still, the numbers so far have helped in assessing how the program will work. “The main thing is showing the system is working and works well,” Downey said.
 
Phil Campbell has a unique perspective on the bureau. He’s been director of the hospitality association, and will soon take over as director of the LeConte Center.
 
The PFHA will soon be hiring an employee to oversee the housing bureau; that’s the association’s share of the partnership.
 
It will be the association’s first full-time employee; it uses volunteers and contracted personnel to handle other work.
 
“That person has not been named yet,” Campbell said.
 
In the meantime, the city will be sending a quartet of its own to the National Quarter Convention when it meets this year. That week-long was one of the first new events landed by the LeConte Center, and it will be coming here starting next year.
 
This year, city officials will be there to tell attendees about local attractions and help them sign up using the housing bureau.
 
So far, there are 66 local lodging businesses signed up for the bureau. They include cabins, chalets and campgrounds as well as hotels and motels, Downey said.
 
“It’s the whole gamut of properties.”
 
All of them are entered in the database for the bureau, and event organizers can choose which of them will be listed for their shows.
 
And in the future, the numbers taken from the bureau will help them measure the impact that events have on local businesses. That was one of the attractions for the city when the idea firs came up, Downey said.
 
“We’re excited about that,” he said. “It helps us to know exactly how much revenue we’re creating.”
 
n jfarrell@themountainpress.com