Tourism Tuesdays October 28, 2014

  • Alabama’s tourism industry receives a record four Southern Tourism awards
  • Alabama getting head start on plans for bicentennial celebration
  • Lee Sentell meets Dalai Lama in Birmingham
  • International markets with 80%+ leisure travel to USA targeted by Alabama Tourism
  • New trail grants to help Anniston move forward in becoming cycling hub
  • Local officials, governor break ground on 222 interchange
  • ASA archery tournament signs 3-year contract, new agreement with hotels
  • Longtime Highlands Bar and Grill server Goren Avery receives regional honor
  • Discovering the good life in Alabama with Brand USA/Discover America
  • Historic Oakleigh to undergo makeover, set to temporarily close for 9 weeks
  • Save the Date for the 2014 Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events




Alabama’s tourism industry receives a record four Southern Tourism awards

Alabama’s tourism industry received a record four awards out of the thirteen presented at the Southeastern Tourism Society’s (STS) recent convention in Charleston, S.C.

The Alabama Tourism Department’s two-year food campaign received the top award for tourism marketing. The Alabama Food campaign included a statewide restaurant week, a “100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die” smartphone app and a photo exhibition of dishes that premiered in New York earlier this year.  The “Art of Alabama Food” exhibit is now on display at the Dothan Civic Center.

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau (CVB) was named as the tourism office of the year. The Montgomery CVB was honored for its work to raise visitor numbers and awareness of the city as a tourism destination.

Judy Ryals, president of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, received the Beacon Award for her leadership in the advancement of tourism.  The Spirit of STS Award went to Patti Culp, executive director of the Alabama Travel Council, for her involvement in the Southeast Tourism Policy Council.

The awards were open to tourism agencies and industry professionals in 12 states, officials said.

Alabama getting head start on plans for bicentennial celebration
WSFA 12 News, Oct. 22

The State of Alabama is just a few years away from celebrating its 200th birthday, and planning is already underway to mark the event.

The Alabama Bicentennial Commission chose Constitutional Hall Village in Huntsville, the site where the state’s first constitution was written in 1819, to unveil the “Alabama 200” logo. The red, white and black logo is dominated by a bold numeral 200 with an inset of the state’s outline.

Designed by the state tourism department artist Tommy Cauthen, the “Alabama 200” logo identify corporate sponsors that will provide funding for the state’s celebration.

“We wanted the committees in place early,” said Alabama Bicentennial Commission chair Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur). “With lead time, the talent on these committees can create programs that will have a lasting impact, especially in areas of education, tourism and economic development.”

Al Head, executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and Donna Cox Baker, editor-in-chief of Alabama Heritage magazine, will chair the Statewide Initiatives Committee. Their group will oversee traveling exhibitions, publications, documentaries and other statewide commemoration efforts.

Tami Reist, director of the North Alabama Lakes Tourism Association, and Carrie Banks of the Alabama League of Municipalities will lead the Local Activities Committee. Their committee will develop and support local activities, including history projects, festivals and historical marker dedications.

Steve Murray, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and Karen Porter of the Alabama State Department of Education, are co-leading the Education Committee. The committee will include a range of educational entities, including schools, museums and parks.

“We couldn’t be more fortunate to have this level of leadership,” noted Orr. “Alabama is going to set the standard for bicentennial commemorations.”

The celebration will be spread across three years starting in 2017 to follow the sequence of events that led to the creation of the Alabama Territory in 1817 and culminating on the anniversary of statehood, December 14, 2019.

To read this article online, go to:

Lee Sentell meets Dalai Lama in Birmingham

State tourism director Lee Sentell represented the State of Alabama on Sunday when the City of Birmingham hosted the 14th Dalali Lama at a luncheon prior to His Holiness addressing 7,000 persons at Regions Park.

Sentell and Barbara Thomas of the Retirement Systems of Alabama sat with Mayor William Bell at the head table during the one-hour luncheon. The guest asked questions about race, religion and customs in the Deep South.

Sentell presented a miniature of a Rosa Parks statue to the Dalali Lama and the two posed for photographs.  The previous day the religious leader toured Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

International markets with 80%+ leisure travel to USA targeted by Alabama Tourism

The Alabama Tourism Department has joined Travel South USA’s shared in-market representation program in an effort to build on the department’s international program.  The shared in-market firms are located in Australia, Brazil and France.  In each case, travel from that country to the USA is at least 80% leisure.

The firms from Australia, Brazil and France will attend the Travel South USA International showcase in New Orleans in December as one of their first duties as shared representatives for selective southern state tourism departments.  Also at the Travel South International Showcase will be Alabama Tourism Department’s UK in-market firm as well as representatives from top Alabama tourist destinations.

The United Kingdom is the number one overseas leisure market to with 2,163,249 visitors to the USA in the first 6 month period of 2014, of which 80.7% were leisure travelers.

To download the U.S. Commerce Department’s study, go to:

For information on Travel South International Showcase, go to:

For more information on Alabama’s international program, contact:

New trail grants to help Anniston move forward in becoming cycling hub

By Patrick McCreless,, Oct. 22

Anniston leaders want more tourism and the sales tax that comes with it and are one step closer to those goals with $200,000 from the state to extend local cycling, hiking and walking trails.

Officials announced recently that the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) had awarded the city two $100,000 grants – one to lengthen the Chief Ladiga Trail by nearly a mile into Anniston and the other to build 6 miles of trails on Coldwater Mountain closer to Anniston. The two projects are part of a larger plan to bring trails into downtown Anniston, which could stimulate local tourism, economic development and improve residents’ health and standard of living, city leaders and trail and cycling experts say.

To read the entire article, go to:

Local officials, governor break ground on 222 interchange

By Zach Winslett, The Cullman Times, Oct. 24

Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) and state Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman), along with many other Cullman County dignitaries, attended a groundbreaking ceremony recently to commemorate the beginning of one of the county’s most anticipated developments.

The new interchange, which began as a part of the industrial development of County Road 222, has had a long path to fruition.
It began when the Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) courted Topre American Corporation to come to Cullman County.

“The deal was that the interchange would come along if industry located here,” Assistant Director of CEDA Dale Greer said. “Topre and other development brought in jobs to the area, but our part of the deal — the interchange — never got quite held up.”

Now, that part of the deal is becoming a reality thanks to the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) sponsored by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

“I don’t know if I have ever seen officials and the community come together like this before,” Greer said.
The final, and ultimately successful, push for the project was based on the tentative plans to bring the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame to County Road 222.

“When I was elected to office, I asked myself ‘how are we going to repair the roads in this state,’” Bentley said. “I set up a program — ATRIP — and said ‘I want to take politics out of it.’”

To read this article online, go to:


 ASA archery tournament signs 3-year contract, new agreement with hotels

By Trent Moore, CullmanTimes, Oct. 21

The Archery Shooters Association (ASA) Classic is officially returning to Cullman — and organizers hope a new agreement with local hoteliers can stymie bad blood over hotel pricing concerns that have lingered since the ASA moved its tournament here three years ago.

The ASA has agreed to continue hosting its massive annual tournament at Saint Bernard for three more years, while also reaching a separate agreement with members of the Cullman Hospitality Association — which represents several local hotels — to set room prices at a reasonable cap, so long as the association fully books the hotels. The majority of local hotels have already signed on, and negotiations are reportedly still underway with the remaining few that have not.

Hotel prices have been a sticking point with the ASA and its competitors who travel to the area for years, and ASA president Mike Tyrell said he believes the new agreement should help them avoid the tension of previous years. The event brings an average of 2,000 people to Cullman for several days in the summer, with the 2015 edition is set for July 24-26.

“We were able to cobble together a deal and it’s a huge weight off our shoulders,” Tyrell said. “We’ve had a very good three year run here and all we really want is consistency. It’s been a real collaborative effort to get everyone together and I want to thank everyone involved.”

Amy Rama with Hampton Inn and Brajesh Patel with Days Inn were on hand to represent the local hotels in the area. Rama noted the agreement to keep the tournament here is a benefit to the entire area and should be a positive development for the local economy.

“The local hotel owners are not just owners, we’re community members, as well,” Rama said. “We want what’s good for Cullman and that’s what’s good for all. It will mean great tax dollars for Cullman.”
Christy Turner, with Cullman Parks and Recreation, has been working with the ASA for three years and said she was “so excited” to see this moment arrive. The agreement was announced Tuesday during a press conference hosted at Saint Bernard.

Saint Bernard’s Abbot Cletus Meagher said the tournament has been a major boon for the private school, providing attention and exposure for the campus.

“We provide a venue and it’s great to put the prep school and Abbey to good use for the community,” he said. “It’s a great cooperative effort and symbiosis that goes on. We love to share the beauty of God’s creation.”

To read this article online, go to:–year-contract-new-agreement/article_fcb51b4c-5965-11e4-b30c-8f1d86ce6776.html?mode=story


Longtime Highlands Bar and Grill server Goren Avery receives regional honor

By Bob Carlton,, Oct. 27

Highlands Bar and Grill server Goren Avery, who has worked at the restaurant since it opened in 1982, has received the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award, which is presented each year by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Avery received the award during the SFA’s 17th annual symposium this past weekend in Oxford, MS.  It recognizes “an unsung hero or heroine, a foodways tradition-bearer of note,” according to a SFA media release.
The award is named for New Orleans native Ruth U. Fertel, who, in 1965, mortgaged her home to buy the 60-seat Chris’ Steak House and eventually grew the business into the international Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain, which now has more than 130 locations across the world. Fertel died in 2002.

Rien Fertel, a member of her family, presented the award to Avery.

“For Goren to be recognized as one of the important people in Southern foodways is a wonderful honor,” Highlands Bar and Grill chef and co-owner Frank Stitt told  “There are a lot of those restaurant professionals who are part of making restaurants great, and Goren is one of the masters of our restaurant and a phenomenal part of our restaurant family.”

To go along with the award, Southern Foodways Alliance filmmaker Joe York also made a short documentary film about Avery. The film is titled “Red Dog,” which is what Avery’s friends call him.
The film debuted recently at the SFA symposium and should be available on the SFA website soon.  Also, the SFA has plans to screen “Red Dog” in Birmingham later this year.

The Keeper of the Flame Award recognizes Avery for his 30-plus-year career at Highlands, during which he “has set national standards for service and professionalism and hospitality,” according to the SFA media release.
“In a field where turnover is typically high, Avery has mentored a generation of restaurant professionals,” the release said.

For the past six years, Highlands has been one of five finalists for the James Beard Foundation Award as the most outstanding restaurant in America.

To read the entire article, go to:

Discovering the good life in Alabama with Brand USA/Discover America
Caroline Amiguet’s Journal, Oct. 25
Caroline Amiguel is the French host of Alabama’s “Brand USA” video.

Sweet Home Alabama.  When I was planning for my trip I spoke with my friend Elaine who was born and raised there.  She told me about the legendary hospitality and delicious food.  After hearing her stories I couldn’t wait to get to Alabama to experience it for myself.

To see the entire blog and the video, go to:

Historic Oakleigh to undergo makeover, set to temporarily close for 9 weeks

One of the top historic home attractions in Mobile, the Historic Oakleigh House, will temporarily close Nov. 9 – Jan. 12, 2015 to allow staff time and space to rearrange the museum and update the tour dialogue, in what the Historic Mobile Preservation Society (HMPS) is calling an exciting transformation, not only within the community, but for tourism in Mobile.

“Historic Oakleigh House is a museum of the 1950s. We are responding to the call for historic house museums nationwide to change how we engage our visitors in the interpretive process. We want to tell the story of Oakleigh’s preservation- how and why it has survived for 181 years,” said Erica McElhaney, president of HMPS’s board of directors.

Cited as a standard practice in historic house museums to close for short time frames, the HMPS scheduled its closure during the museum’s time of lowest attendance. While Oakleigh will only be closed for nine weeks during the initial phase, the updating process is expected to take two to three years to complete.

“HMPS is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2015, so we thought it appropriate to honor our founders by breathing new life into Oakleigh,” said McElhaney. “Our goal is to have the entire process complete in 2017, when activities begin for Alabama’s Bicentennial in 2019.”

To follow the progress of Oakleigh’s transformation, go to:

Save the Date for the 2014 Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat

The 2014 Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat is set for Nov. 9-11, at Lakepoint Resort State Park in Eufaula.

The Welcome Center Educational Retreat continues to be a unique opportunity to update the Welcome Center staff on your organization, attractions, accommodations and special events. The registration fee is $150, which includes your meals on Sunday afternoon and dinner Sunday night; breakfast, lunch and dinner on Monday and the Monday night event, along with your booth setup on Monday.

The host hotel is Lakepoint Resort State Park and they are offering a rate of $61.95 plus tax for each night to all participating partners.

For registration and additional information, please contact:

Ann Sparks, 334-687-6664 or e-mail:
Trisa Collier, 256-423-3891 e-mail:
Jerry Hale, 205-392-5443 e-mail:

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Nov. 3 – 6                   World Travel Market, London, England
Nov. 9 – 11                 2014 Alabama Welcome Center Educational Retreat
Dec. 2 – 4                    Travel South International Showcase, New Orleans
Dec. 5 – 8                    Travel South International Super FAM to Alabama


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