New Blount County tourism director working on increasing visitor

New Blount County tourism director hopes to increasing visitors

Posted:
Blount County is eighth out of 95 counties on the state's list of tourism activity, and the county's new tourism director is hoping to increase that number. Blount County is eighth out of 95 counties on the state's list of tourism activity, and the county's new tourism director is hoping to increase that number.
"What I would like us to do is create the best visitor experience," said Tami Vater, the new tourism director. "How we do that is create a community vision." "What I would like us to do is create the best visitor experience," said Tami Vater, the new tourism director. "How we do that is create a community vision."

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

TOWNSEND (WATE) - Tourism brings in more than $15 billion into the state of Tennessee, much of that from travelers visiting East Tennessee.

While communities like Sevier County are well known for their tourist attractions, others want to increase their exposure.

Blount County is eighth out of 95 counties on the state's list of tourism activity, and the county's new tourism director is hoping to increase that number.

Each year more than 150,000 people travel through Blount County to get to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Many of them stop in the county and spend money.

"It is really the peaceful side of the Smokies," said visitor Amy Gentry. "We wanted to get away from the crowds and the million people who are in Gatlinburg."

Revenue from the hotel and motel tax has continued to increase here, aside from a small dip in 2009 due to the recession. Tourism brings $305 million into the county each year.

Even though those numbers are good, Tami Vater, the new tourism director for the Blount Partnership, wants them to get even bigger.

"What I would like us to do is create the best visitor experience," said Vater. "How we do that is create a community vision."

Vater says she plans to work with local leaders and those who own attractions to see that happen.

One person who is excited to see changes in tourism is Bob Patterson, the director of the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend. The center is the only year-round attraction in the county.    

"We think there is a lot to offer," said Patterson. "We would like to do more."

Vater has already started working on several projects. One of those is getting more exposure.

"We are actually creating, bringing back, our fan tours," said Vater, "Where we bring writers in from magazines and publications and we share our assets of the tourism market."

Another new thing they will be implementing in 2013 is creating a new travel app for the county. It will allow visitor to find out about attractions and even book rooms in local hotels and motels.

Vater says she is not only focusing on Townsend, but the entire county, including Maryville and Alcoa.

"We have the Clayton Center for the Arts," said Vater. "We have culture. We have history."

The new Blount County tourism travel app will be available in May for Android phones, iPhones, and iPads.

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