CathyHuskins

Cathy Huskins has been appointed tourism director for the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce.

 

The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce board of directors has named Cathy Huskins its tourism director to lead the Chamber’s tourism efforts. She will oversee and assist with the development, implementation and successful execution of the Chamber’s plan of work and programs designed to maximize tourism in Unicoi County.

Huskins brings more than 22  years of experience to this role, having worked for the Chamber in various capacities since 2000. 

“Cathy will bring so much skill and momentum to this position. She is a natural leader with a remarkable work ethic,” said Amanda Delp, the Chamber’s executive director. “We could not ask for a more qualified person to lead our tourism efforts.”

Unicoi County, known for is popular outdoor recreation and scenic natural beauty, is continually showing up on the radar of outdoor enthusiasts and visitors looking for a unique adventure. In 2021, the State of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development reported that tourism spending in Unicoi County grew by more than 34%. 

“Over the past several years, we have seen city and county officials continue to place a much larger emphasis on tourism in Unicoi County, recognizing that tourism means dollars for our community,” added Delp. “With the addition of many new tourism related businesses like Blue Ridge Paddling, The Peddler’s Rest and Glamping Retro, to name a few, we are seeing tourism growth skyrocket in Unicoi County.” 

The position of Tourism Director is not an entirely new position for the Chamber. In 2002, the position was created and remained staffed by the Chamber until 2017, at which time, the Chamber suffered significant budget cuts from the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County that resulted in the loss of a staff member and forced the Chamber to redefine job titles and descriptions for the remaining two full-time employees. 

“Over the past five years, we have continued to focus attention in the area of tourism, completing as many projects as possible with the limited funds dedicated to tourism promotion,” said Huskins. “Following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to see the increase in tourism requests and responsibilities rise.”

The decision by the board of directors to reinstate the tourism director position came after months of research and discussion. Noting the significant increase in tourism related involvement the Chamber was experiencing, the board recognized the need to have a dedicated staff member oversee the tourism portion of the Chamber’s plan of work. 

“Just in the last six months, the Chamber of Commerce has spearheaded numerous tourism projects. From the application and receipt of two tourism grants from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to providing business support to our tourism businesses, as well as hosting a travel writer, the Chamber has continued it’s dedication in promoting Unicoi County as a visitor destination for outdoor adventure and recreation.” 

In addition to reinstating the tourism director position, the board of directors also voted to add a part-time employee at the Chamber to assist with increasing the number of social media platforms for the Chamber, as well as creating social media content for both the Chamber and Visit Unicoi County. 

Delp said that the job description for the position is still being developed and Chamber officials anticipate filling this position after Jan. 1. 

The growth in tourism is not just a trend that is being seen in Unicoi County. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development reports that as Tennessee’s number two industry, tourism generated a record $24 billion in domestic travel spending in 2021, marking the largest visitor spending nationally in Tennessee’s history. Tourism helps drive economic development and job growth, which helped to restore and grow livelihoods for Tennesseans. 

“As travel and tourism becomes an even greater component of Unicoi County’s economy, I am excited to step into this role. Unicoi County has been blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and has so much to offer,” Huskins said. “I want everyone to experience what I do on a daily basis.”

In addition to her appointment as tourism director, Huskins recently was elected to the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. For a story on the BMA election, please see Page 1-A.

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