Tourism Tuesdays August 16, 2016

  • Winners of state tourism industry awards announced
  • Alabama Restaurant Week underway
  • USA TODAY features “100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die”
  • German readers to see full page Alabama Tourism Advertisement
  • Why Amazon shoppers in Alabama will soon be paying more
  • Space Camp kids talk with astronaut aboard the International Space Station
  • Gulf Shores and Orange Beach provide adventure, relaxation
  • #BHMnotBHX
  • Mark your calendars for the Alabama Tourism Workshop October 5
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Winners of state tourism industry awards announced

The Alabama Tourism Department will present 17 state tourism industry awards next week in Orange Beach at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.  The awards banquet will be live streamed at 7 p.m. Aug. 22, at

The 3614 Jackson Highway Studio in Sheffield will be named as the 2017 Attraction of the Year.  The studio became one of the most influential recording studios in the world soon after the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, aka the Swampers, set up shop there in 1969.

The National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores will be named Event of the Year.  The annual festival draws more than 250,000 people to the Gulf Coast and is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

Sen. Clay Scofield (R-AL 9th District) will be presented with the Government Advocate award for his work as a champion of the Alabama State Parks system.

Back Forty Beer Company founder and CEO Jason Wilson will receive the Director’s Award for his work helping promote the state’s craft beer industry.

The TimesDaily newspaper in Florence will be presented with the Media Advocate award for its coverage of Muscle Shoals music and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Magi Thomley Williams with Wind Creek Hospitality will accept the Rising Star award for her work in promoting Wind Creek destinations.

Vickie Ashford with the Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau will receive the Professional of the Year award for her work during the past two decades in promoting the greater Birmingham area.

Beth Gendler of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism will receive the Executive of the Year award for her work in overseeing convention/meeting sales and the operations of the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission.

The Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau will be presented with the Tourism Organization of the Year award for its continuing work in the promotion and marketing of the Huntsville area to nearly 3 million visitors annually.

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism will be presented with the Tourism Partnership of the Year award for working with the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on the Leave Only Footprints initiative.

Leigh Cross of the Alabama Tourism Department will receive the Employee of the Year award for her continued commitment to excellence during her 36-year career in the state tourism finance department.

The Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau will be presented with the Alabama Themed Campaign award for its success in promoting the history and culture of Mobile with its “Born To Celebrate!” campaign.   

The Grand Bay Welcome Center will be recognized as the Welcome Center of the Year for the successful opening of its new facility on I-10.

David Johnson, Elaine Fuller, Bellingrath Gardens & Home and Priester’s Pecans will be inducted into the Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame. 

Johnson, of Sheffield, is a lifetime champion of the state’s music industry and a past executive director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.  During a two-decade career, Fuller has promoted the Cullman area, including her work as the executive director of the Cullman County Museum.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore is celebrating its 80th anniversary and is one of the state’s leading tourist attractions.  Priester’s Pecans in Fort Deposit has grown from a small gas station selling pecans into a thriving retail establishment and a destination stop for travelers.


Alabama Restaurant Week underway

Alabama Restaurant Week started this past weekend and will run until August 21. The promotion is a culinary event that highlights Alabama’s diverse range of cuisine over a 10-day period.

The promotion is being supported by a public relations and social media campaign.  In addition, Alabama’s eight welcome centers are handing out restaurant week brochures to visitors.  To date, Alabama Restaurant Week has received more than $20,000 in media coverage.  This does not include the publicity that was generated by the cities that are doing their own local restaurant week promotion in cooperation with the statewide effort.


The lunch specials offered by the restaurants during the Alabama Restaurant Week promotion range from $5 to $15.  Dinner specials cost from $10 to $30, not including tax, tip and drink. Restaurants have the option of offering specials at both lunch and dinner or choosing to offer just lunch or just dinner specials.  


The Alabama Tourism Department has made buttons, posters and flyers available to participating restaurants. 


For more information, on Alabama Restaurant Week, contact, for social media promotions of the campaign and on PR,

USA TODAY features “100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die”

By Patricia Nickell, Special for USA TODAY, August 14

Travel writer Patty Nickell went across the state earlier this summer on assignment for USA TODAY. She wanted to experience first-hand some of the restaurants featured in the Alabama Tourism Department’s popular “100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die” brochure.  Included online is a 50 photo slide show of Alabama restaurants and some of their top dishes.

Ask most people what the first thing they think of is when they hear Alabama, and they’ll likely say football, not food. Still, Alabama has a diverse culinary scene that extends beyond fried chicken and grits (although those are succulent staples).

From Bananas Foster French Toast in a Mobile tea room to barbecue in a Pell City Texaco parking lot to oysters that come “fried, stewed or nude”, Alabama offers something for everyone. An Opelika distiller carries on the traditions of Scotland’s Highlands in Alabama’s lowlands; a cathedral is made of egg; and chicken and white sauce have made a barbecue joint in Decatur a mecca for aficionados of ‘cue.

You can sample James Beard Award-winning chef Frank Stitt’s unique take on traditional French at Chez Fon Fon in Birmingham or sit on country crooner Hank Williams’ favorite stool at Chris’ Hot Dogs in Montgomery and try one of four styles of dogs. Of course, you can have your fill of those southern staples the state is known for in these same major cities, from shrimp and grits at the Blind Mule in Mobile to yams at Martin’s in Montgomery.

In fact, see how many of the 100 Alabama Dishes to Eat Before You Die you can check off your list. And while you’re at it, get acquainted with some of the state’s up-and-coming food entrepreneurs: Tasia Malakasis, who makes 14 cheeses on her goat farm outside of Huntsville; Jessi Norwood, creator of Hot Damn Jelly; and Wes Willis, whose unique brand of tea is divided into three categories: Southern (sweet), Mason Dixon (half and half) and Yankee (unsweet).

That Yankee tea may be the only un-sweet thing about the food scene in “Sweet Home, Alabama.” Browse the gallery above for homegrown flavors you can only find here, from Huntsville and Birmingham to Montgomery and Mobile.

To read this article and view the photo slideshow online, go to:


German readers to see full page Alabama Tourism Advertisement

The Alabama Tourism Department is placing a full page advertisement in the fall edition of America Journal, a German travel magazine. The ad is part of the department’s marketing effort in the important German speaking market.  The focus of the ad is Alabama Road Trip 54, which is all about music in The Shoals. 

The ad has a historic photograph of the outside of the Jackson Highway Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the Muscle Shoals water tower and an exhibit at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. 

The main copy of the ad starts near a black and white photo of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Translated from German, the copy would read in part: “Ask The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon or Lynyrd Skynyrd: This sound is reason enough to travel to Alabama. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia celebrates the greats from all over the state, from Hank Williams to Lionel Richie. In the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett recorded their world hits. Cher, Rod Stewart or Bob Dylan have sworn by the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in nearby Sheffield. Recording continues, while tours are offered. In Florence on the Tennessee River stands the birthplace home of the “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy, now a museum. The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa scores high with its proximity to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail – the group of publicly accessible top golf courses in Alabama.”

America Journal has a readership of 38,500 and publishes every two months.  The advertisement will be part of the publication’s September/October edition that highlights travel to the southeastern part of America. The magazine is the only travel magazine in Germany reporting exclusively about the USA. It caters to German travelers to the USA who have visited multiple times and are looking for special places to visit.

The German-speaking countries of Europe (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) combined represent about 100 million people.  They are Europe’s largest language group and one of the most dynamic markets for European inbound travel to the USA. Citizens in these countries enjoy 4 to 6 weeks of paid vacation per year.

For more information contact: or


Why Amazon shoppers in Alabama will soon be paying more

By Leada Gore,, August 15

If you’re one of those who prefer the ease of online shopping and your website of choice is Amazon, you will soon be paying more for your purchases.

Starting Nov. 1, Amazon has agreed to start collecting and remitting sales tax in Alabama, meaning buyers will see an additional 8 percent tacked onto their purchases.

The massive online retailer is the latest to sign on to participate in Alabama’s Simplified Use Tax Remittance Program. The measure allows eligible online retailers to pay a flat 8 percent tax as opposed keeping up with the variances among state and local sales rates.

The majority of the revenue from the tax goes to the state’s general fund; the remainder is distributed to cities and counties based on population.

The change will mean a revenue boost for the state.

“This partnership with Amazon is a huge benefit for the state and means additional, much-needed revenues, especially as Amazon continues to capture more and more of the online retail market share,” Julie Magee, Alabama Revenue Commissioner, told the Dothan Eagle.

With the change, Alabama will become the 29th state to collect sales tax from Amazon.

The simplified tax rate is available to retailers that sell services or items in the state but do not have a physical presence here. Alabama’s law also allows them to lock in the 8 percent rate even if the federal government adopts a higher figure in the future.

The tax applies to all sales regardless of where they are shipped in the state.

To read this article online, go to:


Space Camp kids talk with astronaut aboard the International Space Station

By Courtney Crown, WHNT19 News, August 11

Kids who are spending the week at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Space Camp took an interesting call on Thursday afternoon.

Kai Demorist is from Portland, Oregon. This is his third time at the camp and he is still learning.

“You learn a lot of the teamwork you need to use and quite a few skills,” Demorist said.

On Thursday, he and his fellow campers received a call from Dr. Kate Rubins, who is currently aboard the International Space Station.

“It was pretty mind-blowing because they’re 250 miles above us,” Demorist said.

With the help of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, the campers asked Dr. Rubins some questions.

“She said science was her toughest subject which is interesting because she has a doctorate in cancerous diseases,” Demorist said.

Rubins remembers what it’s like to sit in these seats.  She attended Space Camp when she was 12 years old.

“It shows you that if you do what you want to do, even little stuff like this, that lots of people don’t think make a difference, it can,” Demorist said.

Demorist said hearing Dr. Rubin’s answers inspired him to shoot for the stars.

“I plan to go to a good college that specializes in aeronautics and science, or maybe the Air Force Academy and follow my family, and become a pilot and from there, go to NASA,” Demorist explained.

Dr. Rubins is conducting experiments on biological and human research during her four months on the International Space Station.

To read this article online, go to:


Gulf Shores and Orange Beach provide adventure, relaxation

By Karim Shamsi-Basha, for the Birmingham Magazine, appears in, Aug. 10

Along the coast of Alabama Gulf Shores and Orange Beach provide 32 miles of beach.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach provide mostly condominiums and high-rise accommodations (although a good number of beach homes can be found second-row and along the bayside). Also, activities like water sports, kayaking, parasailing, fishing, diving, cruises, golf, and deep sea fishing are popular along the Alabama beaches for adrenaline junkies. 

Music is big on the Alabama Coast with many concerts and venues, such as the famous restaurant/music venue The Hangout (which hosts Hangout Music Festival in the spring). Top names like Lady Antebellum and the Dave Matthews Band entertained thousands at The Wharf. 

If you are the outdoorsy type, you can enjoy jet skiing, pontoon rentals, parasailing, and dolphin cruises at Alabama Extreme Watersports. The company also just recently started offering guided Waverunner dolphin tours. 

Getaway Charters
 offers family fishing trips. And who said hunting is not a beach activity? Intercoastal Safaris offers hunting and fishing trips—hogs, coyotes, red snappers, and ducks: beware! 

Snorkeling and scuba diving are not only found in the Caribbean. Sail Wild Hearts provides both underwater escapades at Perdido Key, which features a stunning coral reef.

The area also has plenty of options for rainy day activities (or if you’re looking to beat the heat). The Factory offers 12,000 square feet of connected world-class trampolines, foam pits, dodgeball, and a basketball goal you can dunk on. At the Gulf Coast Escape Room, you can enjoy real-life escape games like the Zombie Autopsy and the Doll Room. 

Head to SanRoc Cay for shopping, an Aveda Spa, and a painting class at Christie’s Paint ‘N Shop.

For more information on what to do in the area, visit

To read this entire article online, go to:



Ben Marlow and Richella Heekin will arrive in the state today (Aug. 16) on their free vacation to Birmingham, Alabama.  It all started when the couple from the UK mistook Birmingham, Alabama for Birmingham, England when booking their vacation.

The couple’s error received widespread attention after they arrived at the Birmingham, England airport for their vacation to Las Vegas and were told they had booked from the wrong airport.  But all was not lost.  Virgin Airlines offered them free flights from England to Las Vegas.  Then the community of Birmingham, Alabama, added a trip to their city as well.

The couple will enjoy some of the best food, attractions and overall hospitality from Birmingham during their 32-hour stay.   To view their trip, search social media channels using the hashtag #BHMnotBXH.


Mark your calendars for the Alabama Tourism Workshop Oct. 5

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wednesday, Oct. 5.  This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. 

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Aug. 12 – 21                           Alabama Restaurant Week                                         Statewide

Aug. 20 – 23                           Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism           Orange Beach

Sept. 7 – 9                               STS Fall Forum                                                          Birmingham

Oct. 5                                      Alabama Tourism Workshop                                      Montgomery



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.

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Alabama Tourism Department