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).
âFirst 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, âNull said. âIn 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.
âIt’s not about what type of accommodation will work well, but how entrepreneurs and investors invest 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, âNull said. âThe old days of dorms, cabins without privacy, trailers and the like are gone. Our visitors have changed over the years. They bring families, couples, children and large groups and they 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.
âWe have eight cabins fitted out as duplexes, then we have three one-bedroom cabins with a full living room and kitchen; and the nwe have two bedroom cabins with a living room and kitchen, and they all have their own bathroom, âFain said.
Cabins are also equipped with features such as towels and linens, coffeemakers, microwaves, televisions, 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.
âWe grew up,â Fain said. âWe have been truly blessed and it just keeps growing. Right now, we are currently working on a long term RV park of 15 sites; and then next spring we will have a camper park as well. coaches of about 25 spaces.
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.
âThere are more couples, there are more families coming in,â Fain said. âA lot more women are coming – maybe even a feminine trend – where in the beginning it was just guys, guy trips and things like that. We probably reserve more of our private cabins for families and couples than for our singles trips, so we’ve seen a big, big change in that direction when it comes to more family activities coming here as well as for 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 in-cabin sprinklers are required by the state fire marshal.
Null said that creating the accommodations these new ATV tourists want requires a lot of advanced planning. There are a lot of details to consider.
âTheir expectations of us have changed and we need to meet them at this level. A business plan for any hosting project should include marketing plans, research and data from the CVB and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority, âshe said. âWe 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 accommodation, on-site dining options, WiFi capability, access to trails. All of this is important to avoid the appearance of a cookie cutter for the ATV industry.
Other businesses such as restaurants would help the local hotel industry, and these businesses also need advanced planning.
âAs with other companies, the process is the same. They need to understand the industry and realize that even though people ride all year round, any restaurant or retail establishment will experience off-peak times during a shoulder season and the first of the week, âNull said. âBusinesses also need to 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.
âIn late fall, the Mercer County CVB will be hosting a tourism conference for industry partners, business owners and the community,â Null said. âMany of these topics will be discussed 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.
âWe have a total of 14 cabins: four of them are two-bedroom,â said Randy Brown. âThey have hot tubs on them; 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 could put two adults and a child in it.
âThe four large cabins are fully equipped with a stove, refrigerator, full kitchen,â he said, adding that linens and towels are provided in all cabins as well as Keurig coffeemakers, microwaves , TVs and Blu-ray DVD players.
âAll we need is people showing up,â said Randy Brown. âEverything else is there. We are 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.”
âWe even have an ATV wash site,â 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.
âWe’re all about the family,â Randy Brown said. âPeople 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]