In a news release from the Scott County Chamber of Commerce Monday morning regarding the new brand of Scott County’s tourism efforts, Brandon Hughett may have said it best.
“The tourism committee has not created anything new,” Hughett said. “We’re just more effectively telling visitors what we’ve had for many years.”
Hughett, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Committee, was responsible for spearheading the effort to trademark “The Adventure Tourism Capital of Tennessee.”
With the exception of ATV tourism — which has exploded under the efforts of privately-operated businesses Brimstone Recreation and Trails End Campground — there is nothing new. The hiking, the horseback riding, the whitewater paddling — all of that has been available to visitors to the Big South Fork region for years.
What has changed is the attitude towards tourism by the local communities. Fentress and McCreary counties have embraced forward-thinking efforts to promote tourism, and Scott County has done the same.
Scott County first began to identify itself as an adventure tourism destination under the administration of former county mayor Rick Keeton, using the slogan, “Your Adventure Tourism Destination.” Local efforts to market tourism have continued since then. In a county without an official tourism promotion arm, selling the community to vacationing visitors falls almost solely on the Chamber of Commerce, and that’s where the efforts have truly taken root. Executive director Stacey Kidd has worked tirelessly to promote tourism, maintaining almost constant contact with tourism officials at the State of Tennessee. The Chamber’s tourism committee spends hours exploring new ideas and developing festivals, such as the Big South Fork Bluegrass & Bike Festival and the BSF Vintage Train Fest.
The efforts don’t stop there. Entrepreneurs who make investments in tourism-related businesses — rental cabins and guide services — play a role. Their interest is primarily in making money, but visitors would not travel to the region without accommodations. Without the efforts of the Big South Fork Bike Club — and those like Joe Cross — to work with the national park and establish bike trails, the exploding popularity of mountain biking in the BSF would have never happened.
Going forward, all these efforts will pay dividends. Tourism does pay off, and it is already paying off in Scott County. This weekend was an example of that, with local motels and cabins booked to capacity and a steady stream of out-of-town guests through McDonald’s, Walmart and other local businesses.
Few communities can survive on tourism alone; those that do are often mired in poverty behind the bright lights of the attractions.
But tourism can supplement other industries to help strengthen local economies. Scott County has always had the tools to make that happen. And, now, efforts are being made to tell visitors about it.
■ Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at email@example.com.