Sweet Home Saving’s campaign to boost tourism in Alabama
• Deadline for 2014 Vacation Guide & Calendar listings is Aug. 1
• Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 17-20 in Huntsville
• Hot and Hot is one of America’s best wine restaurants
• Alabama Gulf Seafood partners with Back Forty Beer Company
• Bellingrath Gardens and Home named Alabama’s Best Garden
• Underwater forest discovered off coast of Alabama below surface of Gulf Of Mexico
• Lookout Alabama partners with Ingram Periodicals
• The Historic Chattahoochee Commission announces new Creek Heritage Trail
• DeSoto State Park is setting for award-winning short story
• Mentone’s JulyFest rescheduled
• Wildlife tourism spending tops $2 billion in Alabama
• Sign-up for International Showcase in Nashville
• Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board has a new tourism director
• Alabama Tourism represented at 50+ Travel and Leisure show
• Governor Bentley praises the Sumter Welcome Center and its staff
• Beverly Stallings retires after 30 years
• Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
Sweet Home Saving’s campaign to boost tourism in Alabama
Industry partners can enter their deals for Alabama residents to enjoy during the month of August at restaurants, accommodations, ticketed attractions and gated events as part of a campaign to take advantage of later school year starts. This is an in-state campaign to boost tourism throughout Alabama during August. Enter your deal today to take part in this exciting, free campaign. Visit\portal to take advantage of this free tourism promotion campaign.

Participating is easy.
1. Visit\portal to register your business or organization in the campaign.

2.Enter your special deal. You can select from suggested deals or enter any deal you like. You can update or change your deals as needed. Website visitors will be informed that deals are subject to change, and to “book or reserve now OR call to confirm deals before you travel.”

3. The website and deals will be promoted through a full-scale marketing and advertising campaign this summer. You can benefit from the free promotion of your business and your deals through the Sweet Home Saving™ campaign.
Visit\portal and promote your exciting deals for Alabama residents in Aug.
For questions or more information, write or call (251) 967-7572.

Deadline for 2014 Vacation Guide & Calendar listings is Aug. 1
We look forward to featuring your organization, accommodation, attraction or resource center in the 2014 Sweet Home Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events. To confirm, update or add a listing:

•Log on to the new website,, and either confirm, change or add your listing right then and there.

• The new online listings process, which is more efficient, will save you and the state a great deal of time and money.

• You can review or download the “quick start” guide which walks you through a few easy steps for updating or confirming your existing listing at this site:

• Please take a look at the quick start guide and visit the website to update your listing by Aug. 1.
Updating your listing will take only a few minutes. We hope you appreciate this easy and efficient process.

For any questions, e-mail or call Pam Smith at 334-353-4541.

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 17-20 in Huntsville
Mark your calendars for the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Aug. 17-20, at the Westin Hotel in Huntsville next to Bridge Street with its’ seventy upscale shops, restaurants, movie theater and spa just footsteps away.

For information and registration, go to:

An Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism Facebook Page has been created.

The link to it is If you have a FB account please “like” the page and “share” it on your page and/or invite your friends to like it.

Make a difference by donating to the AGCT Silent Auction to benefit the Alabama Tourism & Hospitality Industry Scholarship Fund
The Silent Auction held during the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism benefits the Alabama Tourism & Hospitality Industry Scholarship Fund. The AGCT Silent Auction has risen over $202,000 over the past 20 years. Scholarships are awarded annually to students currently working toward degrees in the field of hospitality, tourism, hotel, culinary or food service management. Students enrolled in four-year colleges/universities must be at least a second semester freshman, but no further along than a second semester junior at time of application. Students from two-year colleges must be at least in their second semester of their first year, but no further along than their first semester of their second year at time of application.

To make a Silent Auction Donation please visit: Scholarships will be awarded during the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, August 17-20 at the Westin Huntsville.

Conference registration, full agenda and hotel reservations are available online at:

Wine and Craft Beer Pull scholarship fundraiser
The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is bringing back the Wine Pull Fundraiser to the annual conference to be held August 17—20, in Huntsville. Last year more than $2,000 was raised for the Hospitality and Tourism Industry “Scholarship Fund” and the 2013 goal is to double that amount. A Craft Beer Pull is being added to this year’s fundraiser venue.

What is a wine and beer pull?
An opportunity to pay $10 for a bottle of wine or assorted craft beers ranging in value from $20 to $120 or more.

Donate a bottle of wine or craft beer
Please help award more scholarship dollars by donating at least one bottle of wine or craft beer (valued at $20 or more). When you register for the Alabama Governor’s Conference, please commit to donating a bottle of wine, craft beer or a cash commitment. The Alabama Tourism Partnership will be glad to do the shopping for you.

Convenient donation drop-off locations
For your convenience drop-off locations are available in three regions of the State: South, Central, and North. Please contact the Alabama Travel Council directly and we are happy to make pick up arrangements with you.

For more information, contact:, or call (334) 271-0050

Hot and Hot is one of America’s best wine restaurants
by Brent Godwin, Birmingham Business Journal, July 12
Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club was named one of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants by WineEnthusiast magazine.

Hot and Hot, led by James Beard award-winner Chris Hastings, was the only Birmingham restaurant to make the list, which broke down the country into regions that include the restaurants that “serve up a true passion for presenting mind-blowing wine-and-food pairings.”

Specifically, WineEnthusiast mentions the tomato salad paired with Château Croix des Gentils’ 2010 Bordeaux Blanc from the Entre-du-Mers as a “perfect pairing.”

Hot and Hot made our ‘list of best upscale restaurants’ earlier this year, and chef Hastings sat down with Research Director Anna McFall about being a leader of the food culture of Birmingham.

To see the online article, go to:

Alabama Gulf Seafood partners with Back Forty Beer Company
Expanding local craft brewery shares a taste of home by sporting Alabama Gulf Seafood logo on bottles
July 9, Birmingham
New packaging designs for Back Forty Beer Company (Back Forty), an award-winning craft brewery located in Gadsden, will now include the Alabama Gulf Seafood logo.

The partnership is a natural collaboration between two statewide sources of pride – Alabama’s abundant seafood industry, and the state’s expanding craft beer culture.
Effective immediately at Back Forty Beer retailers across Alabama, the Alabama Gulf Seafood logo will appear on five of Back Forty’s most popular varieties, including: Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale, Freckle Belly IPA, Fence Post Session Ale, Spring Seasonal Peach Wheat and Summer Seasonal Biere de Garde.

“The timing of this announcement is ideal,” said Chris Blankenship, Director of Alabama’s Marine Resources Division and Program Administrator for the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. “We are in the middle of summer, with several types of Alabama Gulf Seafood at their peak. Consumers of Alabama Gulf Seafood and lovers of craft beer can truly enjoy the best of both worlds.”

“The relationship between craft beer and the culinary world is something that defines our company,” said Back Forty’s Marketing Manager, Brad Wilson. “That’s why we decided to include food pairing suggestions on all of our packaging materials.”

Since its launch in spring 2011, the Alabama Gulf Seafood website,, has become a favorite recipe destination for foodies of all types who want to make the most of Alabama’s seafood bounty. Offering beverage pairings is a natural next step.

“As Back Forty continues to expand on the concept of beer and food pairings, we are committed to supporting the vibrant culinary community that thrives within Alabama,” said Wilson. “The new packaging designs already made a splash earlier this month during a celebrity dinner with Chef Chris Hastings at The James Beard Foundation in New York City, and were featured in an American Craft Beer Week appearance on NBC’s Today Show.”

For more information on where to find Back Forty Beer, visit

Bellingrath Gardens and Home named Alabama’s Best Garden
July 12
Bellingrath Gardens and Home was named “Alabama’s Best Garden” for the second year in a row by Alabama Magazine readers. Alabama Magazine announced the 2013 Best of Bama winners in the July/August edition of the magazine. Each year, the magazine gives its readers an opportunity to choose and vote for their favorite spots around the state in large categories that include: Food & Drink, Sports & Outdoors, Arts & Entertainment and Shopping.

Other winners from the Gulf Coast: The Wharf for Best Amphitheater; The Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival for Best Art Festival; Flora-Bama for Best Bar; Callaghan’s Irish Social Club for Best Burger, the Pink Pony Pub for the Best Dive Bar, Master Joe’s Sushi for Best Sushi and the Tanger Outlets for Best Outlet Mall. Bellingrath Gardens and Home congratulates all its fellow winners.

In its second year of production, Alabama Magazine is a statewide lifestyle magazine for the Heart of Dixie. Based in Birmingham, the bimonthly publication showcases feature articles which cover the entire state promoting the people, local businesses and Alabama’s heritage.

Underwater forest discovered off coast of Alabama below surface of Gulf Of Mexico
by Carey Vanderborg, The International Business Times, July 9
Scuba divers have uncovered an underwater forest off the coast of Alabama that was buried under ocean sediments and protected in an oxygen-free environment for more than 50,000 years. Experts suggest that the Bald Cypress forest was likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Ben Raines, one of the first divers to explore the underwater forest, told LiveScience that the forest contains trees so well-preserved that when they’re cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap.
Raines said the stumps of the Cypress trees span an area of at least 0.5 square miles (0.8 kilometers), several miles from the coast of Mobile, and sit about 60 feet (18 meters) below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The underwater forest discovery apparently came after a local dive shop owner found a site crowded with fish and wildlife and suspected that something big was hidden below. The diver went down to explore and found a forest of trees, and then told Raines about his spectacular find. But because scuba divers often take artifacts from shipwrecks and other sites, the dive shop owner refused to disclose the location for many years, Raines said.

In 2012, the owner finally disclosed the site’s location to Raines, who then did his own dive and discovered a primeval Cypress swamp in pristine condition. The forest had become an artificial reef, attracting fish, crustaceans, sea anemones and other underwater life burrowing between the roots of dislodged stumps.

“Swimming around amidst these stumps and logs, you just feel like you’re in this fairy world,” Raines told LiveScience.

A team of scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana State University are in the process of applying for grants to explore the site more thoroughly.
To read the article, go to:

Lookout Alabama partners with Ingram Periodicals
Barnes & Noble, Hastings and Gander Mountain among retailers offered
under magazine distribution agreement

Southern Appalachian Press, publisher of Lookout Alabama™ magazine, has signed a two-year distribution agreement with Ingram Periodicals, a leading direct distributor of specialty and general interest periodicals and books.

Under the agreement, Ingram Periodicals will offer Lookout Alabama to major national bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble and Hastings as well as independently owned booksellers and specialty retailers including Gander Mountain, Jo-Ann Stores and REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.).

“We are very excited about partnering with Ingram Periodicals,” said Lookout Alabama Publisher Randy Grider. “This venture not only expands the distribution of Lookout Alabama into a much larger market, but also exposes the entire Lookout Mountain region to a much wider audience.”

Lookout Alabama began publishing in June with the overall goal of generating greater awareness of the Lookout Mountain region of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The inaugural issue included features on Little River Canyon National Preserve, country music hall-of-famer Jeff Cook of the supergroup Alabama, the Mentone Springs Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Alabama, and various articles on local tourist attractions and artists. “The first issue was so well received that we’ve been extremely busy keeping up with demands for additional copies both locally and regionally,” Grider says. “But that is a problem we welcome. It tells us people are interested in the magazine and the area.”

The Historic Chattahoochee Commission announces new Creek Heritage Trail
The Historic Chattahoochee Commission (HCC) is proud to announce the launching of the Creek Heritage Trail. A major new heritage tourism resource, phase one of the trail will consist of a series of outdoor interpretive centers focusing on the Chattahoochee Trace’s role in the Creek and Seminole Wars and the saga of Creek Removal.

The first two interpretive centers, in Eufaula, Alabama, and Bainbridge, Georgia, recently opened. Several more are currently being developed.
For more information, visit the HCC’s website at

DeSoto State Park is setting for award-winning short story
Scenic DeSoto State Park is the setting for an award-winning short story by Trussville, Ala. resident Natalie Cone. “The Totem” was selected from among 20 entries by writers across the country as the winner of the Lookout Alabama/Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative (SELTI) Writing Contest.
SELTI’s contest challenged writers to compose short stories promoting tourism in northeast

Alabama’s Lookout Mountain region. DeSoto State Park is located near Fort Payne, Ala., in the northeast part of the state. Cone’s story was published in the inaugural issue of Lookout Alabama magazine in June ( The story is based on a man who is camping at DeSoto and also features Laurel Falls, one of several waterfalls in the park.

Cone enjoys camping at DeSoto State Park and wrote about her real-life experiences for Outdoor Alabama magazine several years ago. That article was about a weekend camping with her husband at DeSoto. While the short story that won the contest is fiction, Cone selected DeSoto because it is a place she knows well. “I decided to use DeSoto State Park for the setting because it is a place that holds so many wonderful memories for my husband and me, and my two-year-old loves it. We have gone camping there for years. The beauty, serenity and variety of hiking trails draw us back again and again,” she said.

Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein is pleased that DeSoto was used as the setting for the winning short story. Details have yet to be worked out, but Lein said he is in a conversation with SELTI about a potential contest that would feature all 22 Alabama state parks. “I hear of so many people who have great memories at our parks, so I think an association with this writing contest would be a beneficial partnership,” he said.

Mentone’s JulyFest Rescheduled
Organized by the Mentone Area Arts Council, the JulyFest Art and Music Festival has been rescheduled to July 27-28, 2013. The festival was originally scheduled to be held the first weekend in July, however, organizers postponed the event due to inclement weather.

JulyFest Art and Music Festival made its debut in 2012 attracting thousands to the mountaintop town for a weekend of free family fun. High atop Lookout Mountain in Mentone, the second annual event is set for July 27-28, bringing with it two days of arts and crafts, free music by notable Alabama bands, a pet parade and more.

The two-day event opens at 9 a.m. with the prestigious juried arts and crafts show featuring the works of about 50 talented artists and craftspeople who specialize in oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, photography, sculptures, wood art, rustic furniture, pottery, iron work, basketry, fiber and wearable art, and jewelry. The juried show will be held under the trees in Mason Park where visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll as they shop for one-of-a-kind art.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 27 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 28 (Central Standard Time). Festival goers are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and picnic blankets. Admission is free.

For more information, visit:, or contact festival chair, Cynthia Stinson at

Wildlife tourism spending tops $2 billion in Alabama
by Marc D. Anderson,, July 9
From fishing to hunting to sightseeing, wildlife tourism generates more than $19.4 billion in spending across the five Gulf Coast states with Alabama having a $2 billion piece of the pie, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report “Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” released by economic research firm Datu Research LLC and funded by Environmental Defense Fund and Walton Family Foundation, found that wildlife tourism attracts 20 million people annually to Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and funnels $5.3 billion in tax revenue to the government.
Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said the study’s “outstanding numbers” underscore the value the environment has on the economy of Gulf-front states and their parishes and counties, such as Baldwin and Mobile.

After the BP oil spill hit in 2010, Craft said dealing with the possibility of catastrophic environmental damage to the Gulf Coast forced everyone to realize the impact of wildlife tourism.
“When we lose our environment, we lose our economy,” Craft said. “That is the one overriding lesson that we’ve learned from this oil spill. I think it helps us recognize how important it is and helps us realize the requirement and the responsibility that we have to protect it for generations to come.”
According to the study, Alabama attracts 2.3 million people to the state through wildlife tourism: 1,114,000 for wildlife watching, 683,000 for fishing and 535,000 for hunting.

Overall, Florida leads the pack in all categories as it draws 7.6 million people.
While tourism in general is responsible for generating 2.6 million jobs and 26,636 businesses across the Gulf states, environmentally linked endeavors are responsible for creating 500,000 of those jobs, according to the study. In Baldwin and Mobile counties, tourism accounts for 11,237 and 15,338 jobs, respectively.

“We take more than 7,000 people out fishing each year,” Randy Boggs, owner of Orange Beach-based Reel Surprise Charters, said in the study, “85 percent of those folks come from out of state. One hundred percent of my business depends on a healthy environment.”

With the $19.4 billion in overall spending, which is broken down by equipment, trip-related, and other expenditures, Florida generates more than $8 billion followed by Texas with over $5 billion, Alabama with more than $2 billion and Louisiana and Mississippi just missing the $2 billion mark.
The $5.3 billion in taxes comes from Florida with $1.05 billion, Texas with $818 million, Mississippi with $209 million, Louisiana with $201 million and Alabama with nearly $200 million, which the study says is equivalent to paying the salaries of 3,981 secondary school teachers.

The study concludes that, “Because a healthy ecosystem is at the heart of the region’s economy, restoring the Gulf ecosystem is the best way to help the region economically. The Restore Act and additional legal settlements related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill offer a unique chance to restore Gulf Coast ecosystems. Applying these new funding sources to restoration projects is an essential investment in restoring the coastal environment and the regional economy.”
To see this article, go to:

Sign-up for International Showcase in Nashville
Registration is currently underway for the International Showcase held in Nashville, Dec. 3-6, 2013. This will be the second international show presented by Travel South. Last year the response from both overseas tour companies and Alabama suppliers was great.

Nashville will be an exciting city for the International tour operators, so I think the level and number of companies attending will be even better. In anticipation, this year the showcase will have two full days of appointments instead of just a day and a half. This will allow you to have even more appointments. More than 75 international tour operators from more than a dozen countries around the globe are expected to attend.

Thanks to the large number of Alabama suppliers that signed up last year, Alabama projected a solid image of an area of the south where tourist should and do come to spend their money and have a good time.

Sign up now. The early bird special pricing that starts as low as $995 for a single seat at a three-seat appointment table ends Aug. 31. For the best appointment results, come with two others from your area and have a unified tourism message. Starting Sept. 1, the price of appointment taking admission will be higher.

To sign up, look at all pricing and regulations, go to:,
and to download the International Showcase brochure, go to:!userfiles/showcase/International%20Showcase/IntlShowcase2013_Brochure.pdf

Travel South is expecting that booth space will sell out, so the Alabama Tourism Department suggests destinations, attractions and accommodations register as soon as possible to make sure you can attend.

For more information, contact Liz Bittner at Travel South or
Grey Brennan, Alabama Tourism Department, 334-242-4459,

Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board has a new tourism director
The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board announces the hiring of its first full-time Tourism Director.

After a lengthy search, the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce has hired Cecelia Smith, originally from Georgia, as the Tourism Director. She started the position on Tuesday morning with a unanimous approval by the Chamber’s Tourism Board. Cecelia brings with her extensive experience in marketing, sales, tourism and hospitality. Before joining the Chamber she recently worked as a private marketing consultant in Decatur, Alabama, but previously served as Events Director of the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce in Tucson. She also worked in marketing at the Indianapolis Zoo, as well as customer service experience with Delta Air Lines andUS Airways, and served as Membership Director of the Walton County Chamber in Georgia.

Sammie Danford, Tourism Board Chairman said, “With new events like Rock the South music festival and the approval of the Bass Hall of Fame permanent site, the need for tourismcontinues to grow. It is our hope that we will be able to organize all tourism initiatives under one roof.”

Melissa Cartee, Chamber Board Chairman stated, “The hiring of the first full-time Tourism Director for Cullman is a milestone that the Chamber’s Board of Directors has anticipated for a long time. Cecelia Smith brings to this position the expertise and knowledge that will result in economic growth through tourism for the entire Cullman area. On behalf of the Chamber Board of Directors we look forward to working with Cecelia and the newly formed Tourism Board.”

Alabama Tourism represented at 50+ Travel and Leisure show
Della Tully from Alabama Tourism’s UK office represented AL at the 50+ Travel and Leisure show held at London’s Olympia exhibition July 11 – 13 as part of Deep South USA.

The show which was rated the ‘Best Consumer Show’ in the UK by Exhibition News Awards in 2012 was a very successful event and provided the opportunity for Della to meet regular travelers to the USA and talk directly to potential visitors to Alabama. She also hosted a 40 minute talk entitled ‘Journey through the Deep South’ in the Travel Theater.

To read more about the conference, go to:

Governor Bentley praises the Sumter Welcome Center and its staff
On July 5, Governor Robert Bentley stopped at the Sumter Welcome Center on his way home from a visit with his new grandchild in Jackson, MS. He was greeted by Gerlena Hale and Mary Walker. He spent time with the staff and told them that he was impressed with the beautiful center and that he liked the Fourth of July decorations. He also said this is one of the best centers in the state.

Beverly Stallings retires after 30 years
Beverly Stallings, Manager of the DeKalb Alabama Welcome Center will retire after 30 years of dedicated service to the State of Alabama. The retirement event for Mrs. Stallings is set for Thurs., July 25, at the DeKalb Welcome Center from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. CST. The center is located on I-59, south of the Georgia line. For more information on the retirement reception, please call the DeKalb Alabama Welcome Center at: 256-635-6522.

Mrs. Stallings began her Alabama Tourism career, as a tourism representative at the DeKalb Welcome Center as one of four employees who opened the Center. She later became the Manager in 2004.

Prior to becoming a member of the Alabama Tourism team she worked for the Georgia Legislature and the Georgia Governor’s Mansion. During her career with Alabama Tourism she has had an opportunity to represent the Alabama on familiarization tours, travel and trade shows including the Southeast Tourism Society Canadian Express in Toronto and Montreal.

Beverly has been a great ambassador for our state and we will miss her dedication and passion. “We join her many friends and family in wishing her the very best in her retirement,” said Lee Sentell, director.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events
Aug 4-7 Alabama Motorcoach/Georgia Motorcoach Operators/South Central Motorcoach Association, Birmingham
Aug 17-21 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism – Huntsville, AL (Westin)
Sept 19 Alabama Mountain Lakes Annual Meeting
Dec. 3-6 International Showcase, Nashville
Feb. 23-26, 2014 Domestic Showcase, Charleston, WV

ATD is currently registering and planning for the following 2014 Consumer Shows:
Cincinnati Boat and Travel Show – Jan 17-19 & January 22-26, 2014
Louisville Boat Show – Jan 22-26, 2014
Indianapolis Boat and RV Show – Feb 14-23, 2014
Nashville Southern Women’s Show – Mar 27-30, 2014
If you are interested in working in the Alabama Tourism Department’s booth, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or
The Alabama Tourism Department News 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: