By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
With race fans converging in Bristol this weekend, hotels, restaurants and gas stations in the local area may receive a boost — though not as big as in previous years.
Marie Blackwell, executive director of the Mercer County Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said visitors are still coming through the area for races in Bristol but not in the same numbers as years ago.
“Right now we only have two hotel properties sold out for this weekend,” she said. “However, a lot of people don’t make hotel reservations ahead of time and just travel through to see what is available. The hotels aren’t too busy yet, but that could change. The amount of people in local lodging could pick up, especially as we get closer to the race.”
Blackwell said businesses mainly located along Interstate 77 receive the largest boost from race fans.
“The restaurants and gas stations always see a big impact from these travelers,” she said. “Mainly the businesses off Exit 9 see the most of a boost. We are still seeing an impact, but it’s not as big as it used to be.”
Marc Meachum, president and executive director of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, said though the race is in Bristol, it still brings visitors into the area.
“As we’ve known for a few years, the race impacts us all the way up here,” Meachum said. “Twice a year Bristol’s population swells. It isn’t quite as big as it used to be, but even though we are 100 miles away it still generates interest here. People are passing through the area and taking advantage of the services on Interstate 77.”
In addition to those who come strictly for the race, Meachum said an increasing number of people are making a vacation out of race week.
“There are a lot of folks who come in with motor homes,” Meachum said. “They will come in a week or so ahead of time to spend some time in the area. It has a lot of positive impact on our area and the areas surrounding Bristol.”
Keith Circle, with the Princeton Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, said the hotels around Exit 9 often fill up around the time of the race.
“People come and take the hotel rooms,” he said. “They may go out to eat and some may go out to shop. We do see our hotel-motel numbers jump around the time of the race, which is a testament to how popular the race is. It is a two-and-a-half hour trip from here, but it is an easy trip on the interstate. It fills up hotels from Bristol to Beckley. It definitely has a positive impact on us.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org