Smith Mountain Lake is known as one of the jewels of Virginia when it comes to tourism, but some expected the lake to take a hit in tourism when the pandemic hit back in March.

While there was a decrease in tourism in March and April, that was mainly due to most of the state being shut down. Once restrictions eased up, SML saw an increase, and a major one at that.

“We’ve seen a 20 percent to 25 percent increase of tourism from last year,” said Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce (SMLRCC) Executive Director Chris Finley in a phone interview.

According to Finley, the data comes from walk-ins, call-ins, website traffic, etc. Finley also noted that since the SMLRCC opened its doors on Memorial Day, the chamber saw a big flow of walk-ins.

When one thinks about it, SML has a major advantage when it comes to tourism — and that’s outdoor activities. Whether it be on the lake, hiking trails, biking routes or visiting the state park, the lake area offers a large variety of activities for families and visitors to enjoy while still being able to practice social distancing. 

“We’re incredibly fortunate,” Finley said in regard to the outdoor activities that the lake offers. He also believes that with everybody being in their homes during the first part of the shutdown, it created a pint-up demand, and people were ready to travel once restrictions eased up back in late May.

Also in response to the increase in tourism, Finley still encourages all travelers to remain vigilant and still practice state protocol and social distancing guidelines.

Read more stories in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at to view articles in the print and/or e-edition version.

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