Fall tourism more important for Peaks of Otter Lodge than ever

Lodge to close completely in winter for first time

BEDFORD, Va. – Much of Southwest Virginia is heading into peak season for fall foliage and that also means peak season for a lot of local businesses.

The views along the Blue Ridge Parkway are hard to beat this time of year, attracting thousands of tourists from around the world.

"I've met people from Australia, New Zealand. It definitely brings in the tourism. Brings in a lot of people," said Chris Morris, who's visiting from Big Island.

Some people have been making the trip for decades.

"We come up here every year and spend a week looking at the leaves, looking for the otters on the lake and hiking," said Barbara Raine, who's visiting from North Carolina.

Tourists are all searching for fall foliage -- the reds and the yellows -- but local businesses are focused on the green.

"This is it for us. This is kind of the season that really sustains us for the rest of the year," said Sean Morton, assistant food and beverage manager at the Peaks of Otter Lodge.

Fall tourism is an economic driver that's more important than ever before for the Peaks of Otter Lodge.

"We're real slow during the winter, matter of fact this winter, we're completely closing this year with hopes that this real good push gets us all the way through the spring," Morton said.

Traditionally, they've stayed open on weekends during the winter. Closing altogether is something they've never done. The lodge will be closed from December through March.

The lodge will reopen on April 3.

The decision makes this season even more important after a challenging busy season last year.

"Unfortunately, it was a very short leaf season. It was green, green, green, brown, gone. You can't ask for better leaves this year," Morton said.

According to the National Park Service, nearly 2 million people visit the Blue Ridge Parkway every October.

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