I helped form the Blue Ridge Lodging Association in 2010 with two other lodging providers in Blue Ridge, GA shortly after a local vacation cabin rental company went out of business and allegedly had collected and not remitted taxes.
The main goal was to create an alliance of lodging providers so that we could work together to solve common problems, such as issues with renters, working with subcontractors and how to comply with regulations and pay taxes. These efforts ultimately improved the overall visitor experience in the area and helped us form a united front. Situated in the beautiful mountains of north Georgia, Blue Ridge has small-town charm, adventure activities and a slower pace of life that visitors surely enjoy. Our association aims to preserve the beauty and way of life in Blue Ridge.
We designed qualifications for others to join, such as proof of paying local lodging taxes, and set best practices for short-term rentals. We created a board, solicited all lodging providers in the area, and planned an event during a slow time between seasons to give people a reason to visit. We welcomed 5,000 plus guests to the Blue Ridge Blues and BBQ Festival in 2011 (see a video on the event here).
We hold the festival at a downtown park with food vendors coming from around the region and partnered with Beverly Seckinger to produce the festival. Famous blues acts such as Francine Reed, E.G. Kight and Big Bill Morganfield have played to larger crowds. In just our second year, we welcomed 8,000 and expanded to two days. Many of the visitors to Blues and BBQ festival are short-term renters staying at our properties and enjoying Blue Ridge for the first time.
The festival has allowed our board to form great relationships with local officials between the city, county and chamber of commerce. They – as well as local businesses and residents – appreciate our festival and the meaningful benefits short-term rentals bring to Blue Ridge. The long-term goal of the association is to continue to promote tourism in the area, work with local authorities to ensure smart regulations and that local lodging providers have an opportunity to communicate the importance of short-term rentals.