After three decades of working with tour bus operators, Pamela Huey will be retiring early next year from Tour Tennessee, a Receptive Tour Operator for all destinations in Tennessee, from the Great Smoky Mountains through Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville, and west to Memphis.
Tour Tennessee, a partnership between U.S. Tours and Smoky Mountain Resorts, coordinates hotel rooms and sightseeing excursions for group travelers.
Huey is also a longtime advocate for the industry, serving as associate director on several boards, including the North Carolina Motorcoach Association, the Motorcoach Association of South Carolina and the Tennessee Motor Coach Association.
She began her career as an office manager for doctor’s offices and a legal secretary before taking a job 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, then moved up to area marketing person after higher-ups saw her natural sales ability on the phone. Before long, she was the theater’s national sales manager. During that time, she met country entertainment royalty, from the Mandrell Sisters to Dolly Parton.
“I did everything for Dixie, shoveled horse manure. I rode on a horse. I rode in a wagon, I wore a bell dress,” said Huey, with a laugh.
After about six years, Huey was recruited by Opryland Productions in Nashville to open the Governor’s Palace Theatre in Sevierville, Tennessee. When that operation shuttered, country singer Louise Mandrell hired her to work at her theater in Pigeon Forge, which she did for about seven years.
A widower after her first husband died, Huey met her second husband at her 35th high school class reunion. The two wed 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 her home. She set up Huey’s home office so she would continue to do group sales for her.
Jobs along the way
When Mandrell closed her operation and moved back to Nashville, Huey worked for the Smith Family Dinner Theater in Pigeon Forge for 15 years. That was followed by a stint with 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 Tour Tennessee with Pete Smith and US Tours with Bob Cline.
Over the decades, Huey has worked with scores of tour bus and charter operators, including Abbott Bus Lines, Anderson Coach, White Star Tours, Starr Tours, Miller Transportation, Peoria Charters, Sunshine Tours and Yankee Trails just to name a few.
“We work hand in hand,” Huey said of the tour operators. She stepped up her support during the pandemic because many tour operators had to shrink their staff when COVID-19 protocols restricted travel, especially bus tours. “I helped them put together an itinerary for Tour Tennessee and packaged it for them.”
One of her closest friends in the industry is United Motorcoach Association’s Ken Presley. The two have served on boards together.
“Pamela has been a mainstay in the motorcoach industry for decades – a real go-to individual,“ said Presley. “Best wishes for a happy, well-earned retirement Pamela!”
When she retires in 2023, she plans to spend more time with her son, Braden M. Coleman, a pilot and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, who is currently deployed.
“His was one of the final five airplanes that evacuated people last August in Afghanistan. He received a Bronze Star for distinguishing himself for meritorious achievement as Operations Manager, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, while engaged in action against an enemy,” said Huey, noting that her 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 and sisters and no aunts and uncles or grandparents. He’s got his mamma and I got my son,” said Huey, adding that she plans to visit Braden in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where he is currently serving as a squadron commander.
Original remote worker
Huey describes herself as one of the original remote workers. She has been working out of her home in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for decades.
“I haven’t been ‘in office’ in 20-something years. Louise (Mandrell) set the standard for working at home because she knew I could do it, and set up my home office for me.”
U.S. Tours and Tour Tennessee are giving Huey a cruise next fall as a thank-you for her dedication.
“I’m very very blessed with the people I’ve worked for over the years,” Huey said. “I’ve just had the privilege of working in tourism. I sell fun. A lot of people can’t say that. When you’re in tourism, that’s the best business you can be in. You make people laugh, you give them a smile and you make memories.”