Entrepreneurs, investments needed to meet the needs of mountain biking tourists

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Aug 22 — BLUEFIELD – The growing number of ATV tourists on the Mercer County branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is fueling a growing need for entrepreneurs ready to meet their needs with quality businesses.

The Pocahontas Trail, the Mercer County branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, opened in May 2012. Businesses offering accommodations and other services began to appear to serve newcomers. Since then, the demands of ATV tourists have changed, according to Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

“First of all, when people decide to start a business that caters to ATV riders, they have to realize that it is not just a small business, but a tourism role. and hospitality in West Virginia, ”Null said. “In our business, expectations are higher because visitors define needs, and those needs can change over time. As part of the tourism industry, customer service, safety, attention to detail and knowledge of the tourism industry are very important and needed in our region. “

More and more families are arriving to hike the ATV trail, so accommodations and businesses should be prepared to accommodate them.

“It’s not about what type of accommodation will work well, but how entrepreneurs and investors are investing in the ATV industry. To be successful and for tourism to thrive, we need to change our ideas about what accommodation looks like in Mercer County, ”Null said. “The old days of dorms, huts without privacy, caravans and the like are over. Our visitors have changed over the years. They bring families, couples, children and large groups and travel regularly to other destinations. “

Local accommodation providers have seen this change in tourists coming to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail.

Brandon Fain, one of the owners of Gold and Blue Cabins in Bluewell, said bigger lodgings and nicer rooms are things tourists are looking for, especially in the past two years.

“We have eight cabins fitted out as duplexes, then we have three one-bedroom cabins with a full living room and kitchen; and the new cabins are made up of two bedrooms with a living room and a kitchen, and they all have their own bathroom, ”said Fain.

Cabins are also equipped with features such as towels and linens, coffeemakers, microwaves, TVs, air conditioners and heating. There is also an on-site store, Gold and Blue Outfitters, which sells passes, Hatfield-McCoy memorabilia, ATV gear and other items, he said. There is on-site laundry facilities and non-ethanol-free gasoline for ATVs.

“We grew up,” Fain said.

In the past, visitors were mostly groups of men, but cyclists coming to Mercer County now want better accommodations than what was offered when the Pocahontas Trail opened.

“There are more couples, there are more families coming in,” Fain said. “A lot more women are coming – maybe even a feminine trend – where in the beginning it was just guys, trips between men and things like that. We probably reserve more of our private cabins for families and couples than our singles trips, so we’ve seen a big, big swing that way when it comes to more family activities coming here as well as couples. “

Safety is a factor that must also be taken into account, he said. Accommodations must be certified by the Mercer County Health Department and sprinklers in cabins are required by the state fire marshal.

Null said creating the accommodations these new ATV tourists want requires a lot of advanced planning. There are a lot of details to consider.

“Their expectations of us have changed and we need to meet them at that level. A business plan for any hosting project should include marketing plans, research and data from the CVB and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority.” , she said. “We need to be thoughtful with the plans and include things like washing stations, garden games, campfires, etc. Our visitors want the safety of their machines, privacy, comfortable accommodations, On-site dining options, WiFi capability, trail access. All of this is important to avoid the appearance of cookie-cutter to the ATV industry. “

Other businesses such as restaurants would help the local hotel industry, and these businesses also need advanced planning.

“As with other businesses, the approach is the same. They need to understand the industry and realize that even though people drive all year round, any restaurant or retail establishment is going to have slack periods during the year. a shoulder season and during the first of the week, “says Null. “Shops must also be close enough to the trails. The CVB would like to see a brewery and seasonal outdoor outfitters.

Those interested in learning more about starting a new business near the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in Mercer County will have the opportunity to do so later this year.

“In late fall, the Mercer County CVB will be hosting a tourism conference for industry partners, business owners and the community,” Null said. “Many of these topics will be covered at the meeting.”

There are both established businesses and new ones now serving the needs of these new ATV tourists. On Simmons River Road, the Riverfront ATV Resort opened in January. Owners Randy and Aliceson Brown said their goal is to have a family-oriented place for visitors.

“We have a total of 14 cabins: four of them are two-bedroom,” said Randy Brown. “They have hot tubs on it; and a medium sized cabin and there is also a hot tub. And there are nine other smaller cabins. They are comfortable for two people; you can put two adults and one child in it. “

“The four large cabins are fully equipped with a stove, refrigerator, full kitchen,” he said, adding that linens and towels are provided in all cabins as well as Keurig coffeemakers, microwaves , TVs and Blu-ray DVD players.

“All we need is people showing up,” said Randy Brown. “Everything else is there. We’re family oriented.”

The new complex features riverside swings, kayaks, a picnic pavilion, fire pits, basketball hoops and all sites have charcoal grills. There are five RV sites with concrete slabs.

Aliceson Brown added, “We’re ready for the fun.”

“We even have an ATV wash site,” Randy Brown added.

The Browns have said they are working on a restaurant and store and hope to complete them within 45 days. There are also plans for an outdoor theater to provide outdoor music and a venue for plays.

“We are all family oriented,” said Randy Brown. “People looking for a place to party like a rock star, that’s not what we serve. We have a quiet time.”

– Contact Greg Jordan at [email protected]


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