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VIProfile: Kim Bumpas

By Gay Lyons

Collierville native Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville, can hardly contain her excitement when she talks about Knoxville.

“I planned to go to Vanderbilt,” she said, “but my parents brought me to a UT football game my senior year, and it changed my whole vision. The greenness of the campus, mountains, rivers–and moving six hours away from home.”

Bumpas majored in business with an emphasis on marketing and a minor in psychology and wasn’t sure what she planned to do with those credentials.

“During my senior year I started working third shift at the Holiday Inn Cedar Bluff,” she recalled. “I realized if you’re dedicated and work hard you could rise in the hotel industry. I loved it. With hospitality, you either love it or you don’t.”

After graduation from UT, Bumpas spent five years as sales director of the Hyatt Regency. When that hotel group left Knoxville, she chose to stay here rather than follow the Hyatt chain to another city.

Her next position was sales manager with the Knoxville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It was an awesome opportunity,” she said. “Instead of selling one hotel, I got to sell the whole town.”

When the Bureau became the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation, Bumpas became vice-president of sales and marketing, then president after a short term as interim president.

In November 2012, she and her team secured the first contract with the City of Knoxville and Knox County to be the convention and visitors bureau doing business as Visit Knoxville.

“We kept what was good about the old organization and started doing things they didn’t do,” she said. “We marketed to leisure travelers, and in 2015, we formed the Visit Knoxville Film Office and then the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission. Visit Knoxville became a game changer. You need to attract people from out of town, but you also need to make yourself relevant in your own market by providing resources to festivals, local sporting tournaments, partnerships with City of Knoxville special events and hotels. If we can’t help you, we know who can.”

“The partnership with WDVX in our headquarters at 301 S. Gay Street brings in a local crowd,” she continued. “It’s affected our gift shop offerings. They’re more curated; we’re partnering with local makers, which has made a huge difference in sales.”

Visit Knoxville opened the Sunsphere observation deck with a $5.00 fee in February 2022. “Since then, we have welcomed over 38,000 people representing all 50 states and 29 countries,” she said. “It’s going really well. Former Mayor Randy Tyree works on the Sunsphere team and people love him. We launched the Sunsphere Fund with a vision: a manned experience that gave back to the venue. It’s a different experience to go up there when there are people who can tell the story and explain what you’re experiencing. Every penny from ticket and retail sales goes to the Fund. It’s important to protect the Sunsphere. The city maintains it, but we want to enhance it. It’s our Space Needle, our Eiffel Tower.”

“I love seeing Knoxville from the eyes of a visitor every single day,” she continued. “Knoxville is one stop away from everywhere, and there’s a little of everything. When a convention is looking at a city, they don’t just look at the convention center; they look at what’s outside.The people are friendly, and there is so much to do here. Knoxville’s an easy sell.”

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