Tourism Tuesdays August 23, 2016

  • Tourism on pace for fifth record year
  • Study shows international visitation growing
  • New Beer Trail Highlights Craft Breweries in North Alabama
  • Bentley appoints two to Alabama Music Hall of Fame board
  • Edsel Holden honored in Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s Walk of Fame
  • GulfQuest Earns 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
  • Successful Alabama Restaurant Week
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Tourism on pace for fifth record year


Alabama’s tourism industry is on pace for the fifth straight year of record visitors, and expenditures should exceed $13 billion, state tourism director Lee Sentell announced Sunday as 300 industry professionals gathered at the Perdido Resort for an annual conference.


“As Gov. Robert Bentley increases employment in Alabama, the tourism industry is doing its share.  More than 175,000 jobs – about 9 percent of all the non-agricultural jobs in the state – are created by the tourism industry,” he said.


Tourism expenditures have increased 93 percent during the previous 13 years, according to state revenue reports.  Meanwhile, the tourism industry has increased by about $6 billion dollars. Without the $797 million that tourists paid in tax revenue last year, each Alabama household would have had to pay about $424 in additional taxes to receive the same state services.


Study shows international visitation growing

Alabama in top half of Travel South states for overseas visitors

At the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department addressed a packed audience of tourism officials on the international tourism market.  Among the information presented by Brennan during the Tourism Department’s annual update was research from the firm Tourism Economics.

The report said the international market presents a premium opportunity with international visitors to the United States spending up 109% compared with domestic travel spending up just 64% during the years 2003 to 2015.

The report was commissioned by the 12-member state Travel South USA organization.  

According to the report Alabama ranked an impressive 6th in overseas visitors when compared to other states in the Travel South region, putting Alabama in the top half in ranking. 

The Tourism Economics report showed that the top 15 international countries alone sent a quarter of a million travelers to Alabama in 2015 with approximately 75% coming from overseas markets. The report lists Canada as Alabama’s top international market followed by the United Kingdom, Japan, China, France, Germany, Brazil, South Korea, Italy, India, Mexico, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden and Australia.

The report said, on average in the 12-member Travel South region, overseas visits grew at a faster rate than room demand.  According to the report “The disparity in growth rates indicate that states’ optimal allocation of marketing resources (between the domestic and international markets) is rapidly changing.”

For more information on the Alabama Tourism Department’s international efforts, contact


New Beer Trail Highlights Craft Breweries in North Alabama

The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is pleased to unveil the new North Alabama Craft Beer Trail and the North Alabama Craft Beer Passport. The Trail invites craft beer enthusiasts on a self-guided tour of eight North Alabama microbreweries offering hundreds of unique flavors custom to the region.

Available on, the self-guided tour features eight microbreweries and tasting rooms located in Florence, Huntsville, Madison, Cullman, Guntersville and Gadsden. “Designed for residents and visitors to enjoy, the North Alabama Craft Beer Trail is a unique attraction highlighting Alabama-made beer while providing a boost to the North Alabama economy,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist. “The Trail spotlights fresh, locally-brewed beer and is another opportunity to give visitors a unique destination experience that can only be enjoyed in North Alabama.”

Participating breweries on the North Alabama Craft Beer Trail:

Goat Island Brewing, Cullman

Singin’ River Brewing, Florence

Back Forty Beer Company, Gadsden

Main Channel Brewery, Guntersville

Mad Malts Brewing, Huntsville

Salty Nut Brewery

Straight to Ale, Huntsville

Blue Pants Brewery, Madison

Passage of the Free The Hops Gourmet Beer Bill in 2009, the Brewery Modernization Act in 2011, and the 2016 Growler Bill removed some of the restrictions on beer production and consumption in Alabama and has led to an increase in the creation of microbreweries in the state. The Alabama Brewers Guild estimates as many as 300 people work in Alabama-based breweries or brewpubs and an economic analysis produced for the trade group by Jacksonville State University estimated that total employment could increase by 655 jobs within five years under the new law, with an additional economic output of more than $100 million.

Along with information available online, a new tourism brochure has been developed providing craft beer lovers with location information, beer selections, taproom hours, tour information and a passport. Brochures can be obtained by calling AMLA at 800-648-5381 or are available at the AMLA office or at any participating brewery. According to Reist, additional promotional tools are in the works, including an app and road trip giveaways on The Rick and Bubba syndicated radio program based in Birmingham, Ala. AMLA representatives will have a booth with information on the Trail at the Alabama Craft Beer Festival ( set for August 13, in downtown Florence.

To participate in the North Alabama Craft Beer Trail, stop by any participating brewery to pick up a passport. Visit each one and receive a stamp. After completing the passport, craft beer enthusiasts will be able to win a free keepsake bottle opener as a prize from AMLA.

The North Alabama Craft Beer Passport is modeled after the North Alabama Wine Trail Passport created by AMLA. Visitors stop by the six locations of the North Alabama Wine Trail to receive a stamp. After visiting all locations, wine lovers return the completed passport to AMLA for a free gift.

According to Becky Berta of Jules J. Berta Winery, the North Alabama Wine Trail and Passport has had a direct impact on their bottom line. “The North Alabama Wine Trail’s marketing efforts of a brochure and passport have paved a way for attracting new business and now we are seeing many repeat customers. The Trail has brought the six wineries together and allows us to create special events and cross-promote one another. If you want to create a spark in your business, you have to actively promote it, and The Wine Trail and Passport have given us just that,” said Berta. The Trail and Passport launched in the spring of 2015 and approximately 1,000 visitors have completed the Trail.

Information related to the Trail and Passport can be found online at The North Alabama Craft Beer Trail is membership based.

For more information or to inquire about joining, call AMLA at 256-350-3500.


Bentley appoints two to Alabama Music Hall of Fame board

By Russ Corey,, August 17

Gov. Robert Bentley has appointed a Montgomery businessman and a Tuscaloosa state legislator to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

Board Treasurer and State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said Perry O. Hooper Jr., the vice president of Palomar Insurance Co. in Montgomery, is replacing board member and acting state finance director Bill Newton, while state Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, is replacing longtime board member Buel Springer.

“This is very positive support for the hall of fame,” Sentell said. “Bill Poole is one of the most respected legislators in the state. He is committed to strengthening the finances of this important destination.” 

Poole, who was elected in 2010, is the chairman of the House Education Budget Committee. Hooper represented Montgomery in the Legislature from 1983 to 2002.

Sentell said Hooper, who was also recently appointed to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, toured the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on Monday. 

Board member Judy Hood said she, board member Lynn Robinson and hall of fame Manager Dixie Griffin showed Poole around the attraction.

“It was his first visit to the museum, although he has been an ongoing supporter of the music that was created in this state,” Hood said. “He was very impressed and is enthusiastic about being part of the team. His passion for music and his business savvy will be major assets to the AMHOF board.”

Judy Ryals, president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Sara Hamlin, vice president of tourism for the Greater Birmingham Visitors and Convention Bureau, round out the seven-member board.

Poole holds a law degree from the University of Alabama while Hooper received his law degree from Auburn University.

Will Edwards, who supervises appointments to state boards for the governor, said both men sought the appointments. 

Yasamie R. August, the governor’s press secretary, said Hooper’s term began on Aug. 9 and will end July 31, 2022.

“The governor saw Mr. Hooper as someone who is very interested in music in Alabama and thought he would be a good ambassador on this board,” August said.

Poole will also serve a six-year term that ends in 2022.

“Rep. Poole actually reached out to our office and had an interest in serving on this board,” August said. “The governor is thrilled to appoint someone with his level of experience.”

Sentell said the appointments are “direct appointments by the governor” that do not need approval from the hall of fame board or any state government body.

Efforts to reach Hooper and Poole on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

To read this article online, go to:


Edsel Holden honored in Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s Walk of Fame.

Edsel P. Holden is an Alabama native who has been involved with music since childhood. His experience with music ranges from singing on stage since the age of 12, to helping to put together one of the biggest, and longest running music festivals in Alabama, and assisting in the production of an educational concert series.

Edsel began singing on stage at the Princess Theatre in Decatur, Alabama at the age of 12. This early beginning helped to cultivate a musical passion that has stayed with him his entire life. Before graduating high school, Edsel was recruited as a singer by The Starlighters, a band that played pop music. In the late 50s and early 60s, Edsel put together his own group, called the Eddie Holden Orchestra. This group played all over the region from North Alabama, to Mississippi and Tennessee.

He returned to stage work in the late 1960s and began participating in theatre productions, first as a trumpet player in the pit, and eventually as an actor. It was around this time he began work as a studio musician, playing trumpet. He is also one of the original members of “The Big Band” a musical group at the University of North Alabama that performs 30s and 40s era classics.

Although Edsel has continued to perform on stage his entire life, his accomplishments also reach into music history and education. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the annual W.C. Handy Festival, which celebrates W.C. Handy with Jazz and Blues performances around the Shoals area. In the late 90s he worked with Dixe Griffin, Peggy Clay, and the Thompson Trio to produce a series of concerts for elementary school students as part of Black History Month. After the series’ first year, it was invited to perform in Washington D.C. for the National Geographic Society.

Many of Edsel’s performances are for fundraising or charitable causes, such as the restoration of the historic Shoals Theatre in downtown Florence, Alabama.

The star unveiling ceremony was attended by many Alabama Music Hall of Fame inductees and Alabama Music Achievers whom the Hall of Fame has also recognized as well as family and friends. Director Dixie Griffin remarked during a speech at the event that, “… If anyone is deserving of a star today it is Edsel Holden, for all his contributions to Alabama Music, from his music mentoring of others, his efforts in music education, and keeping the sound of the big band era alive.”

For more information, contact the Alabama Music Hall of Fame at 256-381-4417.


GulfQuest Earns 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

GulfQuest/National Maritime Museum is proud to announce the museum has received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.

To qualify for a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, a business must typically maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. GulfQuest was able bypass the typical 12 month requirement by earning the award in less than nine months of operation.

“To earn a Certificate of excellence on TripAdvisor is a major accomplishment for any business” said Diana Brewer, GulfQuest Marketing and Public Relations Director. “But to do so in just nine months is a huge honor and helps further prove that GulfQuest is not only a treasure for Mobile, but for the maritime industry as a whole, across all borders.”

Now in its sixth year, the achievement celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveler reviews on TripAdvisor over the past year. Certificate of Excellence recipients include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a quality customer experience. 

“With the Certificate of Excellence, TripAdvisor honors hospitality businesses that have consistently received strong praise and ratings from travelers”, said Heather Leisman, Vice President of Industry Marketing, TripAdvisor. “This recognition helps travelers identify and book properties that regularly deliver great service. TripAdvisor is proud to play this integral role in helping travelers feel more confident in their booking decisions.”

With over 100 reviews and a solid five out of five TripAdvisor rating, GulfQuest is currently ranked #4 in TripAdvisor’s “62 Things to do in Mobile” list.


Successful Alabama Restaurant Week

More than 180 restaurants participated in Alabama Restaurant Week, a statewide culinary promotion that wrapped up on August 21.

The culinary event that highlighted Alabama’s diverse range of cuisine, was supported by a public relations and social media campaign.  The Alabama Tourism Department also made buttons, posters and flyers available to restaurants that participated. 


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

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