Tourism Tuesdays March 15, 2016

  • 2016 Welcome Center Retreat RFP
  • ATD’s UK rep attends show in Southampton
  • ITB show success for Alabama Tourism Partnership
  • New tour from Switzerland travel firm includes Alabama 
  • Birmingham could get its own National Park
  • Bentley announces grant to boost tourism at Jesse Owens museum
  • New music festival coming to Moulton
  • Family Fun in Birmingham
  • How alleys, boardwalks and ranches are fueling Alabama’s alligator fascination
  • Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27
  • Cullman Tourism director needed
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


2016 Welcome Center Retreat RFP

The annual Welcome Center Retreat is for Welcome Center employees to meet with tourism partners from around the state.  Also, it is an opportunity for the host city to showcase their area to the front line Welcome Center employees from the 8 Welcome Centers operated by the Alabama Tourism Department. 

Welcome Center employees from all over the state attend the annual Welcome Center retreat.  Additional attendees are tourism partners from hotels, attractions, chambers and CVBs.

In order to host this event, which netted Tuscaloosa more than $80,000, access the RFP form here.  It provides information that will enable qualified, interested parties to respond with a detailed proposal to provide hotel and meeting facilities for the 2016 Welcome Center Retreat.


ATD’s UK rep attends show in Southampton

Della Tully, Alabama Tourism Department’s (ATD) UK representative, worked the Bon Voyage USA Consumer show at West Quay in Southampton on a recent weekend. West Quay is one of the premier shopping malls on the south coast of England with a 100,000 people per day on the weekend.  The exhibition space was located at one of the entrances leading to UK retailer ‘John Lewis’.


The event was the USA & Canada Spring Road Show held by leading UK tour operator ‘Bon Voyage’.  Alabama exhibited as part of Deep South USA alongside 10 other US destinations. Bon Voyage hired an Airstream Caravan, a band playing American music and a classic cherry red American Chevy to draw consumers to the stands.  The exhibition area could be seen from all three levels on the shopping centre.


ITB show success for Alabama Tourism Partnership

ITB 2016 in Berlin from March 8 – 13, was a big success for Alabama. For the first time, the new German Alabama Tourism Promotions Partnership office was present at the world’s largest tourism show.

German In-Market Representative Account Manager Janin Nachtweh and Alabama Tourism Regional Director Grey Brennan met with 15 tour operators from Germany, Austria and Switzerland selling European travel to the US. All of them confirmed increasing interest and rising sales numbers for the South.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell held strategic meetings with Nachtweh and Brennan during ITB as well as meeting with key tour operators.

The German In-Market Representative firm also talked to 28 media representatives specializing in travel to the US, discussing story ideas and possible media FAMs. Out of those, 18 journalists and producers attended an invitation only Southern Media Breakfast shared with Mississippi and Tennessee.  German producer and newspaper reporter Tom Noga spoke to fellow writers at the breakfast about his 2015 visit of the Muscle Shoals region. Thirteen sit-down media meetings took place during ITB.

On the last two days the German office distributed large quantities of Alabama brochures to the general public and spoke to many potential travelers about Alabama.

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts in the German market, contact:


New tour from Switzerland travel firm includes Alabama 

The first package resulting from the work of the new German Alabama office went on sale March 14.  Switzerland’s major tour operator Hotelplan now features a fly-drive covering the South that includes North Alabama.

The tour is titled Southern Blues and is offered under Hotelplan’s TravelHouse brand. The tour in Alabama includes the Muscle Shoals area and Huntsville (2 nights), and Birmingham (1 night).

The tour will be promoted on social media, newsletters and at an upcoming Swiss blues festival.

Janin Nachtweh heads up the German office for Alabama Tourism Partnership and is responsible for the German, Austrian and Switzerland markets.

The package has been initialized by the new German office at its first Alabama sales call in Zurich on Jan. 2, and is developed with Hotelplan. Funding for the Alabama share of its promotions comes from marketing contributions from members of the new German Alabama Tourism Promotions Partnership.

To view the tour, go to

For more information on Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts in the Switzerland market, contact:


Birmingham could get its own National Park

By John Archibald,, March 13

I’m always mystified by those in the Birmingham area who want to forget the Civil Rights Movement took mighty and formative steps here.

Move beyond the dogs and fire hoses, they say. We will never heal if you keep bringing this up.

They’d never say the same about Pearl Harbor. Or Nuremberg. Or the Twin Towers.

Never forget.

There is an effort afoot, in Birmingham and in Washington, to have much of Birmingham’s Civil Rights District declared a National Historic Park. It would, conceivably, become the first civil rights-related park in the country to gain such a designation.

It’s about time. For these are the blocks, in downtown Birmingham, where Martin Luther King Jr. demanded that those who would march with him understand the power of non-violence.

These are the streets where children walked stolidly toward the inevitability of Bull Connor, where King penned words that changed the way the world looked at protest – and the city itself.

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” he began.

Rep. Terri Sewell is expected to sponsor a bill creating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Historic Park as part of the National Park System.

“Incorporating Birmingham’s historic civil rights site into the National Park Service system will enhance historic preservation efforts, promote economic revitalization, and facilitate the interpretation of Birmingham’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement,” Sewell said in a statement earlier this month.

The bottom line is that city officials – along with Sewell — believe National Park status could open the doors to federal grants and matching money. San Antonio, for instance, grabbed big cash after a historical park designation.

These places need to be preserved, and honored, and used to teach people both the victories and mistakes of the past.

They need to be funded and managed to showcase the history to visitors and residents alike.

If it becomes a national park it will be staffed by park rangers and maintained by the park service. And that, frankly, makes the place more attractive to national groups that want to open up their wallets for a good cause.

Specifics of exactly what will be included in the park are still in the works or under wraps, but it is sure to include the A.G. Gaston Hotel, where King stayed on many visits to Birmingham, along with Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park and the Civil Rights Institute itself.

Birmingham, you see, is different.

And this is what so many Birmingham residents never realize. Not only did important history happen here, right on our downtown streets, but so many of the buildings and places have been saved and, to some degree, preserved. But the city can and will never preserve them for future generations the way a National Park could. Just as they have done in Philadelphia at the Independence National Historic Park, which includes multiples sites. Or at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia.

So much history. So many lessons.

There is so much that is worthy of remembrance, and preservation, and respect.

There’s Fred Shuttlesworth’s old church, Bethel Baptist, that was bombed three times by those who tried – and failed – to shut him up. The Ensley home of King’s brother, the Rev. A.D.W. King, was bombed twice. Ministers’ homes across Birmingham were targeted by bombers.

There’s the site of the old Trailways station, where freedom riders were beaten in 1961 as they came to Alabama to help black people register to vote.

There are footsteps all across this city where people listened to the non-violent message of Martin Luther King, and stepped out to change the world. Whether those places achieve national park status or not, Birmingham needs to remember.

And the world needs to see.

And never forget.

To read this article online, go to: /birmingham_could_get_its_own_n.html


Bentley announces grant to boost tourism at Jesse Owens museum, March 10                                                                      

Now that “Race,” a biographical movie about Jesse Owens has been released, Gov. Robert Bentley has announced a $9,136 grant to help guide the anticipated increase in tourism to the north Alabama boyhood home of the Olympic sprinter and gold medalist.

Funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission will be used to install new directional highway signs to a museum and reconstructed childhood home of Owens in Oakville. The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association which was awarded the grant expects the movie will attract 10,000 additional visitors annually on top of the 25,000 to 40,000 yearly average to the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum and will generate more than $350,000 to the region’s economy in tourism dollars. 

“The Jesse Owens story is truly fascinating, and it started right here in Alabama,” Bentley said. “I am pleased to announce this funding. I believe visitors will be amazed by what they see and learn.”

The grant, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, will help fund six signs.

The Alabama Department of Transportation will erect a sign on both the north- and south-bound lanes of Interstate 65 near the Jesse Owens Parkway (Alabama Highway 36) and signs in each direction marking the section of the Alabama Highway 36 named in his honor. Two signs will also be replaced on Alabama Highway 157.

In addition to increased visitation as a result of the movie, museum officials say they always expect a spike in tourism, including international visitors, in summer Olympic years. This year’s Summer Olympics will begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Bentley notified Tami L. Reist, president and CEO of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, that the grant had been approved. Local matching funds of $9,136 have been pledged for the signage. 

To read this article online, go to:


New music festival coming to Moulton

After months of preparation and anticipation, the city of Moulton in Lawrence County is about to experience the excitement of the new Southern Fried Music Festival. 

The event will be Fri. – Sun, April 8 – 10, at the Lion’s Club Fairgrounds in Moulton, adjacent to the Lawrence County High campus.  The festival will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight Fri.; noon to midnight Sat. and noon to 10 p.m. on Sun.  Admission is $5 and includes that day’s concerts.

“I am excited about the opportunity to bring this event to Moulton,” organizer Phil Colwell said. “We have some great musicians lined up, we’ll have vendors selling all kinds of items, great food, and most of all it will be a lot of fun.” 

The festival will feature entertainment for all ages, with food vendors, arts and crafts, carnival rides, games, inflatables for the kids, and great country music.  The arts and crafts booths will feature one-of-a-kind, hand-made items shoppers won’t want to miss.  Food vendors will have festival favorites such as pizza, lemonade, funnel cakes and much more. 

The first show will begin Fri. at 4 p.m. and will feature Jeff Whitlow, followed at 8 p.m. by the world-famous “Bama Band,” the group that backed up legendary country star Hank Williams, Jr., for more than 20 years.

On Saturday night, country music legend and Grammy nominated artist, Doug Stone will be the headliner at 8 p.m. on the main stage.  And on Sunday, Kevin Moon will open the show for up-and-coming music star Ashton Shepherd at 8 p.m.

The festival is being sponsored by the Moulton Lion’s Club, KIX 96.1 country radio and the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. 

“We are pleased anytime such a fun-filled event is held in Lawrence County,” said Chamber director Jason Houston.

“This festival will feature fun for all ages, and you can’t beat the price for concerts done by this caliber of artists.  We are anticipating a great weekend.” 

For any questions, call the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at (256) 974-1658, or Phil Colwell at 731-434-9832


Family Fun in Birmingham

By Becky J. Beall,, Dec. 29

This article is the result of a meeting with Georgia Turner, Manager, Media Relations/Group Sales, Florence/Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, at Travel Media Showcase last year.

Birmingham residents looking for family adventure can experience everything from beautiful beaches to scenic mountains without ever leaving the borders of this southern state. In addition, keeping vacation dollars within the state supports economic development across Alabama, promotes tourism and offers employment opportunities to many. Consider all the diversity of sweet home Alabama when planning your next getaway.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Huntsville’s tech-savvy climate is the perfect home for the U. S. Space & Rocket Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, offering exhibits and attractions with an educational premise. Since its opening in 1970, more than 16 million visitors have toured the Center that beckons all to become an astronaut for a day.

Point Mallard Park

Just south of Huntsville in the city of Decatur, Point Mallard Park sits on 750 acres of wooded pines. Carved out among this massive area is an 18-hole golf course, a 25-acre campground, America’s first wave pool (operating seasonally in the Waterpark), an ice skating rink (operating in winter seasonally), tennis courts, batting cages, a driving range and trails for hiking/biking/jogging.

The Shoals Area

The northwestern area of the state is collectively known as The Shoals and is home to some fun family attractions that you might overlook unknowingly. Plan a long weekend touring Helen Keller’s birthplace in Tuscumbia and then hop on over to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield. Enjoy time wandering in Florence, a beautiful river city with a rich history and consider tons of outdoor recreation available on Pickwick Lake, Wheeler Lake, Wilson Lake and Coldwater Falls. (For web sites to assist with The Shoals travel, visit

If you are a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, then don’t miss America’s architectural gem, the Rosenbaum House Museum built in Florence in 1939 for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum. The only Wright-designed structure in the state of Alabama, the Rosenbaum House offered fulfillment of the American dream to middle-income families through low-cost home ownership. This treasure has been carefully preserved and operates today as a museum open to the public. When in Florence, take some time to appreciate this entity.

Montgomery Zoo & Mann Wildlife Learning Museum

Take a tour of the continents by way of the animals at the Montgomery Zoo & Mann Wildlife Learning Museum! From the cheetahs of Africa to the red kangaroos of Australia, the Montgomery Zoo offers tons of animals in their natural setting with opportunities for zookeeper chats, learning about endangered species and the conservation of wildlife. Major animal exhibits, picnic facilities, and special events all make this a family attraction you’ll come back to over and over. A complete calendar of events is available at and is very helpful in planning a visit.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home

Thirty minutes southeast of Mobile in Theodore, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath share their grand estate home on 65 acres complete with stunning floral gardens and seasonal events (Magic Christmas in Lights and Winter Wednesdays). The expansive nature of this estate is a beauty to behold with not only the museum home tour, but with the wonder of nature itself.

Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Folks come from all over the country to enjoy the sugar-white sandy beaches and gorgeous blue-green waters that make up Alabama’s coastal community. Alabama families spend countless summer vacations on the sands of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, but many forget that shoulder seasons (spring and fall) offer amazing weather, reduced lodging rates and shorter lines for attractions and restaurants.

If you’re a camping-style family, there are very inexpensive campsites available at the state park, as well as RV hookups. Condos and hotels abound in addition to beach houses and bed & breakfasts. The Gulf Shores website offers a plethora of information from lodging to recreation to dining. Check it out at

To read the entire article, go to:


How alleys, boardwalks and ranches are fueling Alabama’s alligator fascination

By John Sharp,, March 13

Cheryl McDaniel and Jeremy Clem of Bay Minette weren’t on the hunt for an alligator in Daphne, but they were certainly keeping a watchful eye for “Big Papa.”

“Most of the time, on a quiet day, you’ll see him,” McDaniel said recently as she walked along a wooden boardwalk nestled underneath one of the Eastern Shore’s busiest roadways, U.S. 98 near Interstate 10.

“He’s real, real big. We like to come down here and just look for him,” she added.

The non-descript wooden trail is a popular spot for the couple whenever they visit the Eastern Shore. And it’s a hot spot for alligator watching, especially during warmer months when the scaly reptiles appear out of the murky waters of D’Olive Creek.

Daphne city officials took note and in 2014, began the process of moving forward with a renovation and expansion plan for the boardwalk into a park-like setting surrounded by hotels and restaurants.

“We don’t have too many attractions people will just stop off to go see from the interstate,” Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood said. “This gives them a chance to take a break and maybe see a gator.”

Daphne’s $768,984 Gator Boardwalk project, set to be completed in June, illustrates the growing popularity of

ecological trails and wildlife encounters.  It shows, too, that Alabama’s alligators are joining birds and dolphins as a sight-seeing draw.

Alabama boasts the largest American alligator ever hauled up from the water.  It’s the “Stokes alligator” caught in the Alabama River, about 100 miles north of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta in 2014 by Mandy Stokes of Thomaston and four others.

The 15-foot, half-ton monster broke a record set in 2007 in Texas.

Alabama doesn’t have an alligator state-record program, but I knew off the top of my head the gator killed by Mandy Stokes with the help of her husband John Stokes, brother-in-law Kevin and his children Savannah, 16, and Parker, 14, was much bigger than the largest hunter-killed alligator up to that time.

Stokes said it’s time for the state to recognize the new public curiosity about alligators and ‘gator lore. “We have the world-record alligator caught here in our state and … the alligator hunting season is relatively new to Alabama. You have Florida and Mississippi and Louisiana … they’ve been hunting alligators for many years.”

The alligator hunting season was restarted about 10 years ago through limited hunting permits issued in Mobile and Baldwin counties for late August. Only 50 permits were issued in 2006, a number which grew to 260 last year.

Florida and Louisiana award far more hunting permits each year. Last year in Florida, more than 5,000 permits were issued, each good for up to two alligators. In Alabama, hunters are randomly selected and their permits are good for only one hunted alligator.

Stokes’ kill put Alabama’s relationship with the alligator on the map. The New York Times, last summer, chronicled a story about an alligator hunt in the Tensaw River.

The reason for the popularity, Tim Parker, a tour guide at Gator Ranch since early 2006, said, is rooted in pop culture: Alligators are cool. Andy Riffle from the Animal Planet network show “Gator Boys” can often be spotted at the ranch, signing autographs.

“Before these shows came out, you didn’t hear a lot of people coming through talking about alligators,” Parker said.

“But now almost everyone coming up through there is talking about the shows.”

The Gator Ranch, which began as an alligator farm 38 years ago, has hundreds of alligators in captivity, some much larger than others.  Airboat rides, which can hold up to 30 people at a time, cost $30 per person for adults and $15 for youths ages 4-9.

“During the summer tourism season, we get slammed,” said Parker. “Sometimes, we get on a boat and hardly get off of it.  We open the doors at 8 and stick around till 5.  We run these boats every 30 minutes.”

He added, “There were times in the summer months, you’d be lucky to have one or two cars pulling into the lots. But it’s changed a lot in the last decade, that’s for sure.”

More than 1.1 million people come to Alabama to view wildlife each year, according to a 2013 report commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Walton Family Foundation. That’s more than those who visit to fish (683,000) or hunt (535,000), according to the study which was done by the research firm Datu Research LLC.

The study found that Alabama attracts more people who are interested in observing wildlife than Louisiana and Mississippi. Only Florida and Texas are luring more travelers for wildlife watching.

Wildlife watching is also bringing big dollars.  Of the $19.4 billion spent on wildlife tourism in the Gulf Coast region in 2011, $6.5 billion went to wildlife watching, the study concluded.

Kay Maghan, spokeswoman with Gulf Shores-Orange Beach Tourism, said over the past three months, her office has seen a “significant increase” in requests for its brochure on nature-related activities.  Among the features are Alligator Alley, the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary at Dauphin Island and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

“The one thing we’re trying to educate our visitors and potential visitors more with is that you have a beach here, but there are other things to do,” Maghan said. “They spend a couple of days on the beach and you find people like to do things outdoors.”

Research also shows that wildlife tourism, in general, is generating significant tax money for local governments. For Alabama, that means about $199.5 million in state and local tax revenues from wildlife activities.

Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said that southwest Alabama is in a prime location to benefit. He said with the presence of the Delta and the release of the documentary “America’s Amazon,” more people are interested in “seeing the great Delta area we have here.”

“It’s kind of grown organically,” he said. “There is certainly a lot of different things to show off on the Delta such as wild hog hunting, alligator hunting and people wanting to come down here to see the alligators.”

Haygood said, “It’s a unique park. When you have a boardwalk system that is so low to the water, it really feels like you’re interacting. It’s convenient to access. You have I-10 and Route 98 bustling around you, yet this is a calm and quiet setting.”

To read this entire article online, go to:


Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27

The Alabama Tourism Department will host the semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., April 27.  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


Cullman Tourism director needed

The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce is now taking applications for Director of Tourism. A degree is preferred but not mandatory. Tourism experience is preferred. Some travel is required and salary is commensurate with experience.

No resumes accepted after March 26.

Please remit to: Attention Tourism, PO Box 1104, Cullman, AL  35056-1104

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

April 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30            April Walking Tours

April 27                                   Alabama Tourism Department 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.

The newsletter can also be accessed online by going to:

To subscribe to the weekly Alabama Tourism News, please contact Peggy Collins at:

Alabama Tourism Department