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Businesses along Blue Ridge Parkway look to capitalize on tourism

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BEDFORD COUNTY (WSLS10) - Local businesses are looking to capitalize on tourism. The Blue Ridge Parkway Association reports more than 15 million annual visitors travel the 400-mile stretch of scenic parkway each year.

Winter is fading away and people are starting to explore the great outdoors. With spring in bloom, people are trickling through the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to businesses nearby.

With visitors along the parkway tapping into some of Southwest Virginia's local attractions, several businesses say they spent thousands prepping for the summer season.

"The parkway makes a big difference," commented Owner of Peaks of Otter Winery Danny Johnson. "We're very dependent on the parkway."

Johnson said this weekend he's seen a 30-percent increase in business compared to the weekend before. More folks are coming out to sample the local flavor.

And over at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, there's constant motion of people coming and going.

"I'm just finding a lot of folks have a lot of special memories here," said Dana Paiement, the sales coordinator at Peaks of Otter Lodge. "It's from 'I honeymooned there or my grandparents got married there'...it's just a very special place to a lot of people."

Paiement says management spent about $150,000 on renovations this winter; that includes repainting guests rooms and revamping the dining area.

"It was not anything like this," commented Heather Cash, the lodge's executive chef. "We put in all new buffets and they're all standard units. So, we have carving stations and all these things now."

Paiement said the upgrade was necessary as the lodge is expecting thousands of people to pass through this season.

And this summer for the second year, partnering with local vineyards the lodge plans to start up a wine shuttle.

"We work back and forth," said Johnson. "I tell people about them. They tell people about us."

Johnson said it's all about a good working relationship that helps keep customers coming back.

Johnson also added, this year the winery is adding three new wines and he's building a stage to host events and weddings. It's all an effort to ramp up tourism the Blue Ridge Parkway brings in.