Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Arts, recreation breathe vitality into tourism success

Alicia Phelps, center, accepted the award on behalf of NETTA from TNHTA President and CEO Rob Mortensen and Chairman of the Board Wayne Tabor. Submited photo

By Tamas Mondovics
Content also contributed

The Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association recently named the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) the state’s Destination Marketing Organization of the Year.
NETTA is a nonprofit tourism agency that serves and supports Johnson, Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties, as well as portions of Southwest Virginia. The organization also serves as one of nine statewide, regional tourism organizations recognized by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
The honor took place during the Stars of the Industry Gala at the Music City Center in Nashville as part of the Tennessee Governors Conference on Hospitality and Tourism September 4-6, 2019.
Tourism is the second-largest economic driver in Tennessee, with Northeast Tennessee generating more than $877 million in direct tourist spending, more than $189 million in payroll while employing nearly 6,900 people, and generating more than $26 million in local sales tax receipts annually.
According to NETTA officials, Johnson County’s role in the association’s success is not without merit.
“This distinction means so much to the areas that Northeast Tennessee Tourism serves,” said NETTA Executive Director Alicia Phelps. “Just last year, Johnson County increased in economic impact due to tourist-related spending to more than $10 million.”
Phelps emphasized that with events such as Long Journey Home, and noted attractions including the Johnson County Center for the Arts and Doe Mountain Recreation Area, the association is “able to tell our story to both visitors and residents in a way that sets us apart from so many other destinations.”
Phelps accepted the award on behalf of NETTA.
“This is the first time we’ve received an award of this magnitude, and it speaks volumes about the story we tell and
the destination in which we live,” she said. “The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association has had a really big year with several new endeavors that reach audiences across the globe, as plans are underway for additional projects and campaigns. Folks are starting to pay attention to tourism as a major economic engine, and we’re excited to be part of those regional efforts.”
Recently, NETTA orchestrated an Amazon Prime outdoor travel show that is now visible to more than 46 million people worldwide. The regional organization also annually produces a popular magazine and visitor guide, while encompassing a digital reach of 5.4 million people in local and out of market segments. NETTA recently partnered with East Tennessee State University to offer a new professional certification dedicated to hospitality and tourism-related workforce development.
Officials added that during the past three years, “NETTA has seen a 40 percent increase in memberships, a 176 percent increase in net assets, and has increased website visits ( by 1,803 percent. While operating with a minimal budget and one full-time employee, NETTA is the true sense of a resourceful and responsible nonprofit destination marketing organization that exhibits a major impact to the communities and state in which it serves.”