Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association Gives Industry Morale ‘Refreshing’ Boost | Local News

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For an industry devastated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association’s 23rd annual Pinnacle Awards were welcome news on a celebratory afternoon.

“I think everyone was really excited to be able to be in a room together and honor some big projects and have some great news, and I think it was almost kind of a rally for our industry as we we’re heading into (the second half of) 2020 and 2021 and what we think we can do to strengthen our economy, ”said NETTA director Alicia Phelps.

“It was definitely a tough year with a lot of tough decisions for so many people in the room, and being able to honor them for what they’ve done, being able to light up their day and their year and honor for what they’ve done until now has been great, ”said Phelps.

Prizes were awarded in eight categories of team projects or campaigns, as well as in seven individual categories. 53 nominations were received from groups in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

Leah Ross, executive director of Country Music’s Birthplace, was named Tourism Leader of the Year and called the award an emotional surprise – a surprise that provided a boost in morale amid an incredibly difficult year .

“I had no idea, so it’s quite emotional because I believe so much in our organization, and Bristol – and really all tourism in our area – but to think that my colleagues who are in this company that we are in think I’m worthy of (this award) is very demeaning, “Ross said.” It makes me very proud. ”

Ross also complimented her staff at the museum, saying that she “might be that leader, but there are so many people around me who make it happen and make me look good.”

“It’s very exciting for me and during those times you can get discouraged because you can’t do everything you want to do, but it really shows you the importance of (your job),” Ross said. “We’ve been down for so long that it kind of refreshes you.”

Logan McCabe, who worked for Bristol Motor Speedway in various capacities for more than two decades, received the Lifetime Achievement Award after “retiring to spend more time with his family. McCabe said he was “humbled and honored” to receive the award.

“Sometimes when you get really old you get rewards for all of your accomplishments,” McCabe said. “I love the tourism business – I love serving others, that’s what tourism is about, so it’s going very well and none of this is happening without good friends, family, businesses and partners. ”

Tennessee Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell, who was the event’s keynote speaker, said Thursday’s event was “so important.”

He said people in the hospitality and entertainment industry have been devastated by the coronavirus but “they have worked so hard to be patient and also to work on ways to open up and do it in all. safety for their employees and for others, so today becomes just a celebration of saying, “You know what? We have made a lot of progress in a great economic rebound. ”

As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in the state, Ezell and Phelps both said it was important for businesses and individuals to follow Tennessee Pledge guidelines to avoid another economic stop. As the state leads the country in economic recovery in several key sectors, including hospitality, cases have risen 65% since the start of the month.

“What the tourism and hospitality industry can do to continue the trend we’re on is not only welcome people and let them know we’re safe, but follow the Tennessee Pledge,” Phelps said. “Wear your mask, wear your gloves, follow the precautions – make sure you do things to keep people safe and that will bring them back, and that’s how we can stop the curve, how we can stay open and how we can get out of this.

Ezell, who is the director of the state’s economic stimulus group, said businesses must continue to operate safely to avoid another economic downtown and prevent the spread of infection.

“I think what we have to realize is that we want to bring people into our communities and rebuild tourism and increase the income of restaurants and hotels, but we have to do it safely,” Ezell said. “Yes, we can stay open but we have to take the right steps – extra sanitation, social distancing and wearing a mask when you’re in front of someone.”

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