Love for our region allows Phelps to excel in her role


Editor’s Note: This October, we will celebrate our 30th class of 40 Under Forty honorees. Each week in 2022, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia will highlight one of our 2021 40 Under Forty honorees leading up to the announcement of our milestone class this fall.

In her role as executive director of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, Alicia Phelps is in charge of selling our region to those who aren’t familiar with our corner of the world. Given her love for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, it’s hard to think of a better person to fill that role.

“I want to make sure our area grows, prospers and is represented in the best way possible,” Phelps said.

Phelps has proven herself as a dynamic leader during her 15 years in the tourism industry. She has shown the ability to set her goals and her pace and then move forward without allowing the small stuff to get her off course. She works tirelessly to guard her originality, an asset that allows her to view the region in her own unique way.

Being genuine and original allows Phelps to appreciate originality wherever she sees it. For example, the features that make Erwin or Rogersville a destination for some differ from the attributes that might draw a person to Kingsport, Johnson City or Bristol. Recognizing the things that makes each community in our region special and finding a way to convey those qualities to those who might come visit our region is a gift that serves Phelps well on a daily basis.

In order to package the region as a whole, Phelps must be able to forge relationships and partnerships with everyone across the reason, another task that she has excelled at in her current role. A key partnership with ETSU is well on its way to producing a workforce that will help fill our local hospitality industry with knowledgeable professionals, and Phelps’ ability to work together with others has helped make tourism a shining example of the potential regionalism has to benefit everyone in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

While “brain drain” is a problem that has plagued our region in the past, Phelps plans to stay put, keeping both her creative brain and her heart for our region working to make life better for everyone who calls the Appalachian Highlands home.

“I know that I hope to continue to stay in the region and make sure it’s promoted in the best light,” she said. “I can definitely never see myself leaving this region. “

Next week we will profile Regan Pierce of the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA. If you would like to nominate someone for inclusion in the 2022 class of 40 Under Forty, visit and follow the instructions.

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