Tourism Tuesdays January 12, 2016

  • Attraction report deadline is Friday
  • CNN features Barber Motorsports as one of the 16 Intriguing Things to See and Do in the U.S. in 2016
  • Food Network’s 10 Things I Ate About You: Birmingham
  • Coastal Living lists Fairhope as one of the Happiest Seaside Towns in America
  • Birmingham Post (UK): The land of Southern comforts
  • Italian bike journalist posts Alabama video
  • Hangout included in 5 Must-Do festivals for Australians
  • Alabama Living article highlights the best things about our state
  • Contact information needed for local Makers
  • Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard makes music that’s all about the music
  • Gregg Allman will record next album in Muscle Shoals
  • Business Facilities magazine rates Alabama 2015 State of the Year
  • More than a million: Alabama automakers hit key milestone in record year
  • Alabama gets control, from the feds, of waters up to 9 miles off the coast
  • U.S. Travel Association research predicts continued increase in travel
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

 

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Attraction report deadline is Friday

The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives from state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for 2015. These attendance figures are used by state tourism in economic impact studies and are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings of tourism destinations. The figures serve as an invaluable guide for state government, local organizations and the media. They are also distributed in press kits to travel writers and group tour operators.

In order for you to be counted we must have your data by Fri., Jan. 15. The reporting process is streamlined to allow you to enter your attendance figures directly online. The entire process should take less than 5 minutes to complete, said Brian Jones.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures: http://tourism.alabama.gov/forms/attendance-reporting/ 

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

 

CNN features Barber Motorsports as one of the 16 intriguing things to see and do in the U.S. in 2016

By Marnie Hunter and Katia Hetter, CNN, Jan. 8

The Alabama Tourism Department supplied CNN with a list of new tourism attractions and attractions undergoing major expansions this year. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum’s $15 million expansion was chosen to be featured on CNN’s list of “16 intriguing things to see and do in the U.S. in 2016.”

From new attractions and massive additions to quirky flavors, big birthdays and booze, 2016 promises to be a good year for the curious traveler.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Birmingham

The world’s largest motorcycle collection is getting a bigger home.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum — home to more than 1,400 motorcycles — is undergoing a $15 million expansion, adding 84,650 square feet to its existing 144,000-square-foot facility in Birmingham, Alabama.

The expansion will allow the museum to display up to 1,000 motorcycles at a time as well as an expanded display of Lotus race cars. The expansion is expected to open in October.

To read this entire article, go to: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/08/travel/united-states-travel-destinations-2016/index.html

 

Food Network’s 10 Things I Ate About You: Birmingham

By Layla Khoury-Hanold, Restaurants, Dec. 6

Birmingham, Ala., has many nicknames — Steel City, The ’Ham, B’ham — but for a city with a lot of culinary tricks up its sleeve, the one that may be most fitting is the Magic City. In its early days, the magic referred to the city’s rapid growth, but today it is a symbol of all that new and homegrown talents are doing to pay tribute to Birmingham’s food traditions.

Brown Butter Old-Fashioned Doughnut at Satellite Coffee Bar

Stone Ground Baked Grits at Highlands Bar and Grill

Beef Fat Candle at OvenBird

Grilled Chorizo Meatloaf at El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar

Fried Chicken & Buttermilk Waffle at Galley and Garden

Blackberry Winter at Dram Whiskey Bar

Coffee Ice Pop at Steel City Pops

“Breakfast for Dinner” at FoodBar 

Hearts of Palm “Pasta” at Hot and Hot Fish Club

Coffee Oatmeal Stout from Good People Brewing Company

To read this entire article, go to: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/2015/12/10-things-i-ate-about-you-birmingham-ala/

 

Coastal Living lists Fairhope as one of the Happiest Seaside Towns in America

Coastal Living has announced its fifth annual top ten list of America’s Happiest Seaside Towns.  The 2016 list of the happiest places to live by the sea is live on www.coastalliving.com/happytowns2016 and in the February issue of Coastal Living, on newsstands Jan. 8.  

The unranked list includes top beach destinations across the United States, from Oregon to Maine and from Wisconsin to Alabama: Capitola, CA; Fairhope, AL; Hermosa Beach, CA; Hilo, HI; Portland, ME; Rehoboth Beach, DE; Seaside, OR; Stuart, FL; Sturgeon Bay, WI; Sullivan’s Island, SC.

Consumers can vote for their favorite town through midnight PST on Jan. 25, to determine which will be named the Coastal Living No. 1 Happiest Seaside Town in America. Follow the conversation and spread the word on social media with #CLHappyTown and vote online at www.coastalliving.com/happytowns2016. Coastal Living will reveal the No.1 Happiest Seaside Town via social media and online at www.coastalliving.com on April 5, and feature the ranked towns in the May issue of Coastal Living, on newsstands April 15.

To choose the 2016 finalists for “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns,” Coastal Living editors begin by reviewing more than 300 destinations that have been lauded in the past as Coastal Living Dream Towns or nominated by people via social media. Coastal Living then collects each town’s rank on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, percentage of sunny days, air quality, healthiness of beaches, commute times, crime ratings, walkability, standard of living and financial well-being of the locals, geographic diversity, and Coastal Living editors’ assessment of each town’s “coastal vibe.” A proprietary formula yields the Coastal Living Top Ten “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” list of finalists. The ranking is then determined by online voting, from Jan. 5-25.

 

Birmingham Post (UK): The land of Southern comforts

By Richard McComb, Birmingham Post (UK), Jan. 7

Richard McComb was hosted by Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (www.gulfshores.com) and the Alabama Tourism Department (www.alabama.travel).

It is counter-intuitive to put on heavy jeans, thick socks and a pair of Doc Martens when the clawing humidity is already turning my head into a slipway.

After all, we’re only going to play with a couple of little kitties. What’s the fuss about?

As it turns out, I am grateful for the clothing advice – and the tip not to wear zebra-print fashion – when we enter a shaded pen at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

Our playmates for the next half hour are a trio of Bengal tiger cubs.  Nina and Price, both 15 weeks old, are sparked out on cushions with their gnawed soft toys.  Boris, aged 13 weeks, flops on the grass by a fan, his head propped against a giant block of ice, one cool cat.

He appears to be oblivious as I tentatively stroke his head and administer a tickle behind his ears. But do not be deceived by Boris in Zen mode.  Minutes later, he is clambering over my legs, nibbling my toecaps, pushing me into a fence with his gigantic paws and making a crazy squeal that is just weeks away from becoming a mighty roar.

I lose six pounds in sweat in two minutes. 

It is time for lunch and if there is one thing I pick up quickly it is this: you don’t come between tiger cubs and their food.

The trio glug from milk bottles held by their keepers. Before you know it, our 30 minutes with these beautiful creatures is over.

So is this the best part of our trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where the beaches as sugar-icing white?  Maybe.

Or is it kayaking in the delta alongside dolphins?  Hmm. maybe eating the best shrimp ever in a shack on a tiny sandbar of an island?  Well, that was really good.

And so the list goes on…here is a North American state that, to my mind, is bafflingly overlooked by British holidaymakers. There is just so much to love about Alabama’s coastal region – and I haven’t even mentioned barbecue yet.

I was fortunate to visit this Deep Southern state and was bowled over by many things, not least the friendliness of the people, the cultural and musical heritage, and a fascinating history riven by tragedy and triumph.

But from a purely “kick your shoes off and feel the sand between your toes” perspective, it was thoughts of the 60-mile shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico that lingered.

I thought the beaches, made of zillions of dazzling quartz grains, would make the perfect playground for a family holiday. I wasn’t wrong. We fly into Mobile from Heathrow, via Charlotte, and banish jetlag in the best way possible: by eating.

Our guide, Verna Gates, actually reads my mind so within an hour of landing we are at The Brick Pit on Old Shell Road picking our way through plates of pulled pork, slabs of ribs and chicken, all smoked over pecan and hickory. Like OMG.

Breakfast the next morning is at A Spot of Tea and that means Eggs Cathedral, a signature dish so named because the restaurant overlooks the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Mobile.  The dish is a holy combination of crab cakes, scrambled eggs, grouper, crawfish and seafood sauce.

Try the Bananas Foster, the egg-battered French toast piled with hot banana sauce, bananas and cream, and you are twice blessed.

It is about an hour’s drive from Mobile to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, twin resorts that act as our base for our ‘Bama Beach Bums experience.

Our lodgings aren’t so much a holiday let as a palace. We have a huge three-bedroom millionaire’s condo on the 22nd floor of Turquoise Place.

The master bedroom leads to the balcony where there are stunning views of the glorious gulf at sunrise, sunset and all points in between.  If it all gets too much, there’s a private hot tub to sit back in with a cool beer.

There is, by the way, zero trace of the BP oil spill that devastated the coastline in 2010. Baby turtles hatch on the beach and flip down to the sea while we are in town.  In fact, the natural world around here is spectacular.

It is a bona fide adventure to explore the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the USA’s second largest river delta, in a kayak under the watchful eye of Wild Native Tours.  This stunning wetland is home to alligators, red-bellied turtles and more than 300 species of birds including ospreys, eagles, pelicans and egrets.

There are a lot of fish out there, too – 126 species of them, in fact – which explains why we are accompanied for part of our trip in two-berth kayaks by dolphins.

For a more sedate, but no less fascinating, water-borne exploration, take a tour with Five Rivers Delta Safaris. The guides are excellent.

Before you leave Gulf Shores, make sure you fill your boots at Bimini Bobs at Orange Beach (oh, my, the fresh tuna) and Lulu’s at Gulf Shores, which has the best food-allergy service – and most potent Margaritas – I have ever come across.

Idyllic Magnolia Springs is a short drive from the bustle of the beach but it’s a world away.  Check in to innkeeper David Worthington’s fabulous rustic-chic bed and breakfast, a state landmark, and watch your heart-rate plummet to “super chilled” as waves of old Southern charm wash over you.

Forrest Gump writer Winston Groom lived at Magnolia Spring and life is like a box of chocolates here; it’s just that each one turns out to be your favourite.

Fannie Flagg, who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Café also lived here and over dinner at Jesse’s we meet Glenn Mannich (aka Stick) from her book A Redbird Christmas.

So-called because he looks like one, Stick is a handwriting analyst whose opinion is valued by judges and the Sheriff’s office. From a quick study of the slope of your letters, the spacing, the loops and sharpness of your script he can tell you things you may not want your family to know.

Magnolia Springs is so sleepy they deliver the post by riverboat and the pretty town of Fairhope, just north in Mobile Bay, is great for shopping.  Lunch at Windmill market, a model enterprise in showcasing local produce, is obligatory courtesy of Mister John’s BBQ.

For total beach bliss, head to Dauphin Island, reached by ferry or a three-mile bridge.  Just 14 miles long and 1¾ miles wide at its thickest, this barrier island offers rich pickings for bird-watchers, fishing enthusiasts and beach bums. All you need to do is set your watch to “I Don’t Care What Time It Is.”

The water here is crazy warm for swimming, like a bath.  With a plate of red royal shrimp and a bottle of all-American IPA at JT’s Sunset Grill, you won’t want to leave.

 

Italian bike journalist posts Alabama video

Italian journalist Carlo Ferrari toured Alabama last October. The trip was coordinated by the Alabama Tourism Department, with assistance from state bike clubs and local tourism organizations.  Since then, he has appeared on Italian television to discuss his ten-day visit and posted a YouTube video of a series of photographs taken on his journey.   Ferrari visited Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Anniston, Auburn/Opelika and Mobile on his trip. His 3½ minute video showcases the beauty and historical locations of Alabama via cycling.

To view the video, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elSNPH2yncM

For more information on Alabama Tourism effort to promote tourism in the international markets, contact grey.brennan@tourism.alabama.gov

 

Hangout included in 5 must-do festivals for Australians

The BrandUSA website www.visitusa.com.au in Australia now includes an article for those looking for American musical festival.  In a posting called “Revelers Rejoice: 5 Must-Do Music Festivals, Alabama’s Hangout Music Festival is included with those in California, New York, Tennessee and Michigan.  This list is posted on the Alabama page of the website in the trip idea section.  Other Alabama trip idea listings include Talladega Superspeedway, Civil Rights Trail, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and the Highway 127 world’s biggest flea market.

Carine Bunsci writes, “Since jumping on the festival bandwagon in 2010, Hangout has become known for its epic three-day beach party on Alabama’s Gulf Shores. Hangout attracts some 70 high-energy acts across numerous musical genres, including indie, rock, pop, hip-hop and electronica. Past acts have included Foo Fighters, Beck and Skrillex. With two main stages and tents sprinkled across the shoreline, Hangout promises plenty of tunes, sand and sunshine.”

To view the entire list, go to http://www.visittheusa.com.au/usa/experiences/contently/5-must-do-music-festivals.aspx 

For more information on Alabama Tourism effort to promote tourism in the international markets, contact grey.brennan@tourism.alabama.gov

 

Alabama Living article highlights the best things about our state

Each year, Alabama Living magazine asks readers to vote for their favorite things about Alabama — this year’s categories featured everything from the “best uniquely Alabama experience on your bucket list” (winner: going to the Iron Bowl) to the “best Alabama-made snack” (winner: Golden Flake chips). On the January cover is a photo from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, which was voted as the state’s “best learning museum.”   

Alabama Living is the official magazine of the state’s 22 rural electric cooperatives.  

To read the entire article, go to: http://alabamaliving.coop/article/best-of-alabama-2016

 

Contact information needed for local Makers

Convention and visitors bureaus and chambers of commerce are encouraged to begin collecting contact information on their local Makers.  An online form is being developed to allow this information to be entered into a Makers database.  The Alabama Tourism Department will be celebrating the artisans, designers, writers, musicians and manufacturers who produce goods that have become part of the culture of our state during 2016.

 

 Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard makes music that’s all about the music

By Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, Dec. 12

The 27-year-old singer Brittany Howard has the kind of crazy powerful voice that invites endless comparison to the greats: Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, the list goes on. But when her band, Alabama Shakes, starts playing, one thing’s for certain: It’s impossible to mistake them for anyone else making music in the 21st century.

In 2012, Howard, then 23 and a former United States Postal Service mail carrier, caterwauled her way onto the scene with the bluesy juggernaut “Hold On,” off the Shakes’s soulful, stripped-down debut, Boys & Girls.  In the years since, Howard and her band—drummer Steve Johnson, bassist Zac Cockrell, and guitarist Heath Fogg—have made their way from the garages and barrooms of Athens, Alabama, to the White House, Saturday Night Live, and Lollapalooza, where they shared the stage with Paul McCartney. Their live act is regarded as one of the best in the business, in no small part owing to the sheer, mesmerizing joy that is watching Howard wail her way through the high notes.

Earlier this year, the Shakes released their long-awaited follow-up, Sound & Color, an album whose trippy, dreamy influences complicated the band’s rootsy reputation. Would the music world pounce? Would fans flee?

Quite the opposite. Critics rejoiced, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the groovy “Don’t Wanna Fight” became a radio hit, and earlier this week the Shakes scored six Grammy nominations—including Album of the Year. In an age of image-obsessed pop perfection, the Alabama Shakes are raw, rough around the edges, and intent on making music that’s, well, all about the music. And the world can’t get enough.

We caught Howard, freshly arrived in New York to accept Billboard’s Women in Music “Powerhouse” award, on the phone to discuss the Grammys, touring, why she’s devoted to small-town Alabama, and what she’ll be doing this weekend to unwind. (Hint: It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a rock star.)

Where were you when you heard about the Grammys?

I was in Portland. We were going to play a show. I woke up really early in the morning and found I had all these text messages, emails. I was like, “I guess we got nominated!”

Sound & Color was a departure from Boys & Girls. Getting nominated must validate that choice to take a risk, to not feel hemmed in by the sound you became famous for.

Yeah, it’s good not to feel hemmed in by anything. When you want to be a creative person, you just have to do what you want. I feel validated in that sense. When I was sitting down doing the demos for this record, I started out thinking, “Okay, what kind of music do I want to make? Is it going to be like Boys & Girls?” I think I was confused about what I wanted to do. Because obviously our lives have changed drastically, and so does the lyrical content. I was taking my time to figure out what I wanted from all this. I think I just figured, it’s a great opportunity. I have all these resources to be creative. I realized that’s all I have to do. I don’t have to make the number one hit or anything. And I don’t think I’d like to.

So are you surprised that something you made in that mind-set has caught on so wildly?

Oh, yeah, I’m absolutely surprised. I mean, if you look at what most people listen to nowadays, it doesn’t involve guitars or even real drums. So it’s incredible that a band can be nominated. We’re not the only band, either. There’s My Morning Jacket that’s up there. It’s great. We’re in 2015 and people can still appreciate the skill that goes into playing real instruments.

Have you ever felt the pull of New York or L.A.?

Once upon a time I was looking for a place in New York. But once I saw how much it costs, no thanks! I’m trying to let everyone in New York know that in Athens, Alabama, you could buy a mansion for how much you pay in rent.

To read this entire article, go to: http://www.vogue.com/13379748/brittany-howard-alabama-shakes-weekend-agenda/

 

Gregg Allman will record next album in Muscle Shoals

By Haley Laurence, AL.com, Jan. 4

Gregg Allman will be in Alabama this week to perform two shows at Birmingham’s Iron City, but that won’t be his last stop in the state this year.

In March, the founding member of the Allman Brothers Band will travel to Muscle Shoals to record his next album at the legendary FAME Studios, according to JamBase

The new album is tentatively titled “All Compositions by Gregg Allman,” according to the story.

There are very few details on what the LP will sound like, but there is a producer slated for the album: Grammy winner Don Was. Was has produced LPs for a long list of popular musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Lucinda Williams, the Rolling Stones and Willie Nelson.

Allman’s last album, Low Country Blues, was released in 2011.

To read this entire article, go to: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2016/01/gregg_allman_will_record_next.html

 

Business Facilities magazine rates Alabama 2015 State of the Year

By Lucy Berry, AL.com, Dec. 30

Two high-profile economic development projects in Huntsville and Bridgeport have earned Alabama the 2015 State of the Year title by Business Facilities magazine.

The national site-selection publication praised Alabama for landing Google and Polaris, two companies that will collectively bring up to 2,000 jobs to the area. Business Facilities also highlighted Mercedes’ expansion in Tuscaloosa, Kamtek’s Birmingham project and Yorozu’s new auto suspension parts plant in Jasper.

Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers and Gov. Robert Bentley revealed the news Wednesday in separate press releases.

“The Crimson Tide has rolled in a bevy of big-ticket projects that have provided a solid foundation for future growth,” Rogers said in a statement. “With Mercedes-Benz and Airbus anchoring its top-tier positions in automotive and aerospace manufacturing, an expanding high-tech hub and forward-thinking leadership in 21st-century workforce training, Alabama has put together a winning combination that’s tough to beat.”

Here is a synopsis of the 2015 Alabama projects mentioned in the magazine:

To determine the winning state, the magazine looked at job creation and capital investment for projects from Oct. 1, 2014 to Nov. 1. Business Facilities, owned by New Jersey-based Group C Media, will feature Alabama in a cover story in its January/February issue.

This is Alabama’s first time to win the top annual award. Bentley said the state is “well-positioned” for the future because of its skilled workforce, job-training programs and friendly business climate.

“This has been an extremely successful year for economic development in Alabama, and Business Facilities’ ranking is fantastic news,” Bentley said in a statement. “Our chief focus continues to revolve around creating jobs and new opportunities for residents across the state.”

To read this article online, go to: http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2015/12/alabama_is_2015_state_of_the_y.html#incart_river_home

 

More than a million: Alabama automakers hit key milestone in record year

By Dawn Kent Azok, AL.com, Jan. 7

Alabama’s three automakers combined to produce more than 1 million vehicles last year, the largest annual production total in the history of the state industry.

Hyundai, Honda and Mercedes-Benz collectively turned out at least 1,033,905 vehicles during 2015, according to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

Hyundai led the way with 384,519 sedans and compacts at its Montgomery plant, while Honda’s Talladega County operation followed with 349,386 SUVs and minivans.

Mercedes, which does not release specific production totals until its parent company’s annual meeting in February, did meet the 300,000 annual capacity of its Tuscaloosa County factory.

2015’s production total is up nearly 4 percent from 2014, another record year, when the automakers finished a few thousand vehicles short of the 1 million mark.

In addition to the industry’s vehicle production record, there was also a record for engine production in 2015.

Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville produced 631,630 engines last year, a 3.5 percent increase from the previous year and a record high for the plant. The facility also hit another milestone, production of its 4 millionth engine.

“It’s a great achievement on the part of the automakers, their suppliers and the Alabama workers who build quality products throughout the year,” said Steve Sewell, EDPA executive vice president.

Sewell cited a record sales year — 17.47 million in new U.S. light vehicle sales — with driving the record production in Alabama.

“It presented a huge challenge for the automakers to build enough product to meet demand,” he said. “I think they were running full throttle all year.”

Passing the 1 million threshold is especially significant when you consider how far the state industry has come in less than 20 years, Sewell added. Mercedes began building luxury SUVs in Alabama in 1997, and Honda and Hyundai followed.

“What’s really remarkable, in addition to the numbers, is the complexity of the vehicles being made in Alabama today,” he said. “Our workforce has gained skills and capabilities that they didn’t have when this industry started.”

Across North America, 2015 production numbers are still being tallied, but total output for the region is expected to be 17.5 million vehicles, said Mike Jackson, senior manager, North America Vehicle Production Forecasting for IHS Automotive.

That’s up more than 450,000 vehicles from 2014, he said. The surge is expected to continue this year, with a production forecast of 18.2 million vehicles.

Jackson said low fuel prices and a stronger economy are supporting the sales trend that in turn supports the higher production levels. U.S. auto plants currently account for a majority of the yearly growth in North America, but the lion’s share of future growth for the region is expected to come from Mexico.

As for Alabama, IHS Automotive’s 2015 production forecast of 1,030,000 vehicles is on target. 

In the U.S., Alabama is the fifth-largest auto producing state, following Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, Jackson said.

Alabama also is the sixth-largest auto-producing entity in North America, when considering all of the states and provinces in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  Ontario, Canada, is No. 2 behind Michigan, and the rest of the top five is the same.

The growth in Alabama’s 2015 production total came from Mercedes. While output at the Hyundai and Honda plants dipped slightly from 2014, Mercedes’ output jumped thanks to a capacity expansion for the local factory and a full year of building the popular C-Class sedan, which debuted in mid-2014.

The plants don’t show any signs of slowing down.

This year, the Honda plant will launch production of the redesigned Ridgeline pickup, and a redesign of its Alabama-made Odyssey minivan is expected later this year.

Hyundai, meanwhile, is ramping up production of its redesigned Elantra compact in Montgomery, while Mercedes’ Alabama workers are launching the GLS, a redesigned, renamed version of the GL-Class luxury SUV.

To read this article online, go to: http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/more_than_a_million_alabama_au.html

 

Alabama gets control, from the feds, of waters up to 9 miles off the coast

By Cliff Sims, Yellowhammernews.com, Jan. 5

A $1.1 trillion bill to fund the federal government through September flew through the House (316-113) and Senate (65-33) in mid-December, but the big-spending legislation only garnered support from two individuals in Alabama’s nine-member federal delegation. That does not mean, however, it did not include provisions that could prove to be extremely important to the Yellowhammer State.

One such provision inserted by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who did not support the full bill but worked behind-the-scenes to advocate for Alabama’s interests, extended Alabama’s state waters to nine miles off the coast, up from the previous three mile range.

Orange Beach, Alabama, is known as the “Red Snapper Capital of the World.” But the federal government’s mismanagement of red snapper fishing off of Alabama’s Gulf Coast has resulted in the massive industry being strangled.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal agency, is tasked with regulating the stock of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, in spite of their enormous budget — which comes in at just shy of a billion dollars — their system of measuring the red snapper stock has proven to be woefully inadequate.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) pointed out during a congressional hearing that a local college professor from Mobile had better testing equipment than the NOAA.

“You have $900 million and you can’t give us any better count of the fish stock than what you’ve told us today?” Byrne asked, to which a NOAA staffer responded that they do the best they can.

According to local South Alabama fisherman, the “best they can” has not been cutting it — not by a long shot.

For instance, the federal system estimated that 1,000,041 pounds of red snapper were landed in 2015, while the Alabama system estimated that just 418,000 pounds were landed. As a result, the thousands of private recreational fisherman who fish for red snapper off the Alabama Gulf Coast were only allowed to do so for nine days out of the entire year. If the local numbers are more accurate — and experts say they are — the red snapper season should have been roughly twice as long as it was. This is a big deal, considering every additional day the fishery is open for harvest means millions of additional dollars being pumped into coastal Alabama’s economy.

Additionally, Byrne pointed out that NOAA excludes Alabama’s artificial reef zones when measuring the red snapper stock. That’s particularly troublesome because red snapper are reef fish, meaning the NOAA sample is very likely to drastically underestimate the number of red snapper in the Gulf waters.

While this may seem like a local issue that does not impact the rest of the state, Chris Blankenship, the Marine Resources Director of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, estimates that saltwater fishing in Alabama has a $727 million economic impact on the state as a whole.

The state’s conservation department has relentlessly pushed for legislation to improve red snapper management and increase angler access to the state’s valuable fishery resources, and the provisions Senator Shelby inserted in last year’s spending bill were a huge step.

“The federal government’s continued mismanagement of the red snapper fishery has placed unnecessary barriers in the way of Alabama’s fishermen,” said Shelby. “That is why I have pushed for commonsense reforms in this year’s omnibus to ensure that the red snapper stocks are properly counted, that there is more local involvement in the process, and that Alabama’s state boundary lines are equitable with other states by expanding them from 3 to 9 miles.”

It has been a rare occurrence during President Obama’s tenure in the White House for a state to actually gain more control from the federal government, but that is exactly what happened in this instance.

Alabama’s fishing industry, and the state’s economy as a whole, will likely be better for it.

To read this article online, go to: http://yellowhammernews.com/business-2/alabama-just-took-control-of-waters-up-to-9-miles-off-the-coast-from-the-feds-heres-why-thats-a-big-deal/

 

U.S. Travel Association research predicts continued increase in travel

Domestic consumers, who are currently benefiting from income gains and record-low gas prices, are driving robust domestic leisure travel growth, which will continue to lead the U.S. travel market into 2016. Business travel volumes in the U.S. will hold up, albeit with less support, as many firms remain cautious amidst volatile investment markets and rising interest rates.

Inbound international travel demand has firmed since mid-2015, even though the strong U.S. dollar has persisted and emerging markets continued to lose steam amidst weak export demand. However, advance travel search and bookings data suggest inbound travel growth will ease a bit into early 2016.

The U.S. travel market is expanding, albeit at a slower pace across most segments. November marked the lowest topline CTI reading since May 2015. Still, growth on a 12-month moving average basis is on par with this time one year ago. Domestic travel demand is on firm footing, thanks to a favorable labor market and low travel costs. Inbound travel growth remains a oat but is currently tracking lower than the 2014 average.

Adam Sacks, President of Oxford’s Tourism Economics group says, “In the face of a strong dollar and weaker trade volumes, international visitation growth has held around 3% so far this year. We are keeping a close eye on currency movements and other global risks but are encouraged by growth in searches and bookings for travel into early 2016.

Meanwhile, domestic travel growth remains strong as consumers are emboldened by low fuel costs and greater job and wage prospects.”

To see the report, go to https://images.magnetmail.net/images/clients/USTRAVEL/attach/Travel_Trends_Nov_2015.pdf

For more information on the Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts to promote international travel contact grey.brennan@tourism.alabama.gov. For information on promotion to domestic group tour market, contact Rosemary.Judkins@tourism.alabama.gov  For research information, contact pam.smith@tourism.alabama.gov

 

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Jan. 15                         Deadline to submit attendance figures to ATD

Jan. 15 – 17 & 20-24   Cincinnati Travel Sport & Boat Show                 Cincinnati, OH

Jan. 26 – 27                  Snowbirds Extravaganza Show                              Lakeland, FL

Jan. 27 – 31                  Louisville Boat, RV & Sport Show                      Louisville, KY

Jan. 31 – Feb 4             National Tour Assn Travel Exchange                       Atlanta, GA

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Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to: www.tourism.alabama.gov

To subscribe to the weekly Alabama Tourism News, please contact Peggy Collins at: peggy.collins@tourism.alabama.gov

Alabama Tourism Department
www.alabama.travel