After three decades of working with tour operators, Pamela Huey will retire early next year from Tour Tennessee, an incoming tour operator to all Tennessee destinations from the Great Smoky Mountains to Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville, and the west to Memphis.
Tour Tennessee, a partnership between US Tours and Smoky Mountain Resorts, coordinates hotel accommodations and sightseeing excursions for group travelers.
Huey is also a longtime industry advocate, serving as an associate director on several boards, including the North Carolina Motorcoach Association, Motorcoach Association of South Carolina, and Tennessee Motor Coach Association.
She began her career as an office manager for medical practices and a legal secretary before working as a saloon girl at the Dixie Stampede Dinner and Show – now called Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show – in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
It didn’t take long for her to be promoted to administrative assistant and then to regional marketing manager after superiors saw her natural sales ability over the phone. Before long, she was the theater’s national sales manager. During this time, she met country entertainment royalty, from the Mandrell Sisters to Dolly Parton.
“I did everything for Dixie, shoveled horse manure. I rode a horse. I was riding in a wagon, I was wearing a bell dress,” Huey said with a laugh.
After about six years, Huey was recruited by Opryland Productions in Nashville to open the Governor’s Palace Theater in Sevierville, Tennessee. When that operation closed, country singer Louise Mandrell hired her to work in her theater in Pigeon Forge, which she did for about seven years.
Widowed after the death of her first husband, Huey met her second husband at her 35th high school class reunion. The two got married and moved to Columbia, South Carolina. He died in 2013.
While in South Carolina, Mandrell came up with the idea of having Huey work from home. She set up Huey’s home office so that she would continue to do group sales for her.
Jobs along the way
When Mandrell closed its doors and moved back to Nashville, Huey worked for the Smith Family Dinner Theater in Pigeon Forge for 15 years. This was followed by a stint at Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment – before the company was acquired by The Dollywood Company – selling group tours to bus operators across the United States and Canada.
She finally landed at Tennessee Tour with Pete Smith and US Tours with Bob Cline.
Over the decades, Huey has worked with dozens of tour and charter bus operators, including Abbott Bus Lines, Anderson Coach, White Star Tours, Starr Tours Miller Transportation, Peoria Charters, Sunshine Tours and Yankee Trails to name a few.
“We work hand in hand,” Huey said of the tour operators. She stepped up her support during the pandemic as many tour operators had to cut staff when COVID-19 protocols restricted travel, especially bus tours. “I helped them put together an itinerary for the Tour Tennessee and prepared it for them.”
One of his closest friends in the industry is Ken Presley of the United Motorcoach Association. The two have served together on boards of directors.
When she retires in 2023, she plans to spend more time with her son, Braden M. Coleman, a pilot and Air Force Lt. Col., who is currently deployed.
“It was one of the last five planes that evacuated people last August in Afghanistan. It received a Bronze Star for distinguishing itself for meritorious achievement as Director of Operations, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, while engaged in action against an enemy,” Huey said, noting that his son was interviewed on Fox News about his role in evacuating people, his career and his message for the country.
“I’m very, very proud of Braden. His father died when he was 15. He and I are each other’s only family because he has no brothers or sisters or aunts or uncles or grandparents. He has his mum and I have my son,” Huey said, adding that she plans to visit Braden in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where he is currently a squadron commander.
Huey describes herself as one of the first remote workers. She has worked from her home in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for decades.
“I haven’t been ‘in office’ for twenty years. Louise (Mandrell) set the standard for working from home because she knew I could do it and set up my home office for me.
US Tours and Tour Tennessee are offering Huey a cruise next fall as a thank you for his dedication.
“I’m very, very lucky with the people I’ve worked for over the years,” Huey said. “I have just had the privilege of working in tourism. I sell pleasure. A lot of people can’t say that. When you’re in tourism, it’s the best business you can be in. You make people laugh, you give them a smile and you create memories.