Roanoke tourism leaders say Blue Ridge Parkway closure may actually be blessing in disguise

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge said this is an opportunity to get drivers to stop and stay

Parkway drivers are forced off in Roanoke due to road repairs. Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge said this is an opportunity to get them to stop and stay instead of just driving by.

ROANOKE, VA. – Fall foliage is right on the horizon and each year thousands of people hit the Blue Ridge Parkway to see them. But this year, there’s one hitch — the Blue Ridge Parkway is still closed from Explore Park in the Vinton area to Bent Mountain from prior storm damage.

Despite that, Roanoke Valley tourism leaders said this might actually be a good thing for the region’s hospitality industry, which is badly hurting from the COVID pandemic.

Around dinner time, the kitchen at Vinton’s Farmburguesa stays plenty busy. While volume is the name of the game, co-owner Kat Pascal said quality is the real key.

“Anytime that we can make an impression on people, it’s amazing. So our ‘Columbiana’ infuses our Colombian culture with American style burgers and so for that to kind of standout would be amazing," Pascal said.

And she’s hoping for new customers this fall. With the Parkway closure, travelers looking for a pandemic trip to see the colors will be re-routed.

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge President Landon Howard said that could be right in front of Pascal’s door.

“When you get to the Roanoke area you’re going to have to get off for a few minutes, but we want you to stay several hours or even plan on spending the night," Howard said.

Not passing up an opportunity, VBR created a detour bringing travelers through the heart of the Roanoke Valley instead of just a basic drive around the closure.

“We want you to see the best of what we have, whether it be the star, a place to have a beer, a glass of wine, or one of our many museums," Howard said.

There’s a full website and marketing plan to bring this to life. And for good reason, as Howard said road repairs on the Parkway are still months from completion.

“We’ve made it easy for people to get off and safely be able to see what’s in our region, and I think we’ll actually benefit pretty substantially from that," Howard said.

There are plenty of places along the Parkway to get a burger, but Pascal’s hoping the Farmburguesa experience turns someone’s inconvenience into the best part of their trip.

“Out of towners, people that are not from Virginia, or southwest Virginia, anytime that we can be put in front of them and put out our unique product is a good opportunity for us," Pascal said.

Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge recognizes this plan welcomes people into the region during an ongoing pandemic, which is why it continues to push social distancing, face coverings and strict sanitation procedures.