Higher gas prices and food prices along with other necessities, climbing unemployment, credit problems and now the fiasco in the stock market is making an already soft tourist season even softer here in the Smokies.
Luckily for businesses in the Smoky Mountains, the costs here are lower here than most other vacation destinations and since there is so much to do, tourists don't have to drive far to find something that fits everyone's taste and budget.
With air travel prices sky rocketing, economy class tickets are expected to increase even further with the heavy loss of the more profitable business class travelers (Lehman Brothers alone booked $115 million in air travel last year). Air travel for a family to a vacation destination here in the US may no longer be affordable for many more Americans.
Luckily for the Smokies, most of the population in the US is just a day's drive away so people looking to travel on a tighter budget can still do so by driving to the Smoky Mountains.
One of the most popular Smokies destinations is the Great Smoky Mountains national park which does not charge any entrance fees, exhibit fees, guided tour fees or for parking anywhere inside the 800 square mile large biosphere.
More families are finding out how exciting the national park is where they can picnic, hike, bike or take a guided tour for free. For those who have limited mobility or don't want to get that close to nature, there are hundreds of miles or spectacular roads in and around the park where you can see the beautiful scenery without every leaving your car.
While there are still cheap hotel rooms to be found in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Cherokee and the Asheville area, for families it is often far cheaper to spend your vacation in a cabin - it is certainly far more comfortable!
Not only can you prepare and serve your family home cooked meals in your cabin - it's a great way to save gas and avoid paying the high restaurant prices. Most rentals cabins now have amenities such as hot tubs, pool tables, DVD players and some even have media rooms, video game consoles and other ways to keep the clan entertained - for free!
Much of November and some of December is still considered "in season" and is not priced at peak rates so there are still bargains to be found.
Plenty of the outlet malls and stores here in the Smoky Mountains have been slashing prices to attract the tourists who come here to save some money on their Christmas and holiday shopping.
Just strolling down the street to people watch here in the Smokies or listen to live music is loads of fun. Shorty millions of lights will be sparkling and twinkling away through the night in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville for Winterfest 2008.
Close to Christmas there will also be carolers walking down the streets of Gatlinburg in period costumes from the 1800's entertaining all those that they pass with impromptu performances in local stores. The price? Free and tipping is not allowed!
The Smokies have seen a drop in visitation; but the drop that we have seen is far smaller than most popular tourist destinations in the US. We also see that many who live in and near the Smokies are coming back to explore the Great Smoky Mountains.
Are you changing your vacation and holiday travel plans? How do you save money while you are on vacation? We want to know!
So how long will this drop in visitation in the Smokies last? Crystal balls are for sale in some of the gift shops along the parkway and I bet they are on sale.