Changing leaves bring more visitors, money for local businesses

Fall colors coming later than normal this year

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. - The leaves changing colors are bringing in more green for local businesses.

Visitors from all over the world are flocking to Southwest Virginia to get a glimpse of fall foliage.

"We were wanting to see the color of the leaves, you know in the mountains, the changes," said Norma Belnap, who’s visiting from Idaho.

According to the National Park Service, nearly 2 million people visit the Blue Ridge Parkway during the month of October every year. But this year, some are a little disappointed.

"The leaves are a little late changing," said Robert Harris, who’s visiting from Lynchburg.

"I'm hoping it will kind of get a little bit prettier and show some of the red color," Jessica Harrell, who’s visiting from Spout Spring, said.

Local businesses that depend on fall tourism, like the Peaks of Otter Lodge, are eager for the change too.

"It started off really slow. We had a very, very wet beginning of October, a lot of rain, so it really impacted our business. A lot of visitors that had planned on coming… we had Hurricane Michael come through and the tropical storms, they canceled their visits, canceled their trip," Peaks of Otter Lodge food and beverage manager Jean Hoell said.

Now the leaves are finally starting to turn and business is starting to roll in. The lodge is booked solid for almost the next two weeks, welcoming about 400 visitors to the property every day.

"This is our last mad rush for the season so it is very important to our business," Hoell said.

It’s important to visitors too. Many make reservations a year in advance, hoping to luck out and hit peak season, but they said it's worth the trip either way.

Despite the leaves turning a little later than normal this year, local experts said they're optimistic about the foliage in the coming weeks.

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