Tourism Tuesdays April 19, 2016

  • Travelers spent $12.6 billion in Alabama last year
  • More than 1,700 have taken part in April Walking Tours
  • Alabama Tourism Workshop April 27
  • Official book for the Alabama Bicentennial released
  • Restoration of Shoals studio enters last stage
  • Wall Street Journal spotlights local restaurants
  • Sports Illustrated profiles backstage experience at Mobile’s Senior Bowl
  • Hank Williams gravesite and Birmingham Civil Rights on ITV travel series
  • Product development trip to Alabama a success
  • Alabama part of presentation to Caribbean travel industry
  • One of the country’s top farmers markets returns to Alabama this spring
  • Alabama Makers Market
  • Battleship Commission announces newest appointment
  • There’s still time to take pictures of the great (blooming & colorful) outdoors
  • Selma and Gulf Shores are finalists in the nominee list for a USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards
  • Check your Vacation Guide listing today
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Travelers spent $12.6 billion in Alabama last year

More than 25 million travelers spent $12.6 billion and were responsible for 175,652 jobs last year in the state, according to a report conducted for the Alabama Tourism Department. This represents a 7.7% increase in traveler spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation.

“The tourism numbers for 2015 bring great economic news for Alabama,” state tourism director Lee Sentell said.  “The dollars spent on tourism creates jobs, it grows local economies and generates needed tax revenues. Travel spending in Alabama has increased by 86% over the previous 13 years.”


Without the dollars collected by the tourism industry each household in the state would end up paying $424 in additional taxes according to the Auburn University Montgomery report by economist Dr. Keivan Deravi.

The top five counties with the largest travel-related expenditures are: Baldwin County with $3.9 billion in travel-related spending, Jefferson County was second with $1.8 billion, Madison County was third with $1.1 billion, Mobile County ranked fourth with $1 billion and Montgomery County was fifth with $777 million.

The complete state tourism economic impact report will be available in early May.


More than 1,700 have taken part in April Walking Tours

More than 1,700 people across the state have taken part in the April Walking Tours with two more Saturdays left. The towns who have reported their numbers include: Athens, 371; Huntsville, 310; Fairhope, 214; Florence, 200; Tuscumbia, 82; Mooresville, 63; Decatur, 60; Cullman, 53; Shelby, 52; Madison, 51; Sheffield, 40; Mobile, 38; Columbia, 30; Pell City, 25; Montgomery, 25; Foley, 24; Moulton, 22; Elba, 21; Prattville, 18; Birmingham, 17; Enterprise, 15; Selma, 14; Demopolis, 4; Heflin, 2.  

Some 26 towns across the state are participating in the April Walking Tours being coordinated by the Alabama Tourism Department each Saturday morning this month.  A variety of community leaders are leading the free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns.  The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. on April 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo (April 2, 9, 30); Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Butler, Town Hall; Columbia, Old Bank Building (April 2 & 9 only); Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Decatur, Rose Garden at Delano Park; Demopolis, Downtown Square; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Enterprise, Farmers Market; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center; Heflin, Tom and Rebecca’s Park.

Huntsville, Constitution Village (April 2 & 9 only); Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 16 & 23 only); Mobile, Cathedral Basilica; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Mooresville Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, Public Library (April 9, 16, 23 & 30); Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

The tours are being coordinated by Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department.  “Alabama is the only state in the nation to hold statewide, simultaneous walking tours.  These walking tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather and find out about the history of our state.  More than 30,000 people have participated in the walking tours since the beginning of the program thirteen years ago and they keep increasing in popularity every year,” Jones said.

More information about the April Walking Tours is available on the Alabama Tourism Department website at


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. 

As the date for the workshop is the same as for the quarterly tourism board meetings and both are being held in the same building, there is the possibility for meeting other members of the Alabama tourism industry.

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


Official book for the Alabama Bicentennial released

Alabama’s rich history is featured in the new book 100 Things You Need to Know About Alabama.

The colorful 224-page hardcover book, produced as part of the upcoming Alabama bicentennial celebration, covers the rich history of Alabama from prehistoric times through the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement to football championships and modern industries.  

“This book is the beginning of the discussion about our bicentennial,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, chair of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.  “These are the stories of the people and places that shaped our state.”

The book is divided into topics ranging from the earliest formations of the land to the sprawling Native American cultures and first contact with European settlers.  The narrative continues into the Civil War, Reconstruction, the two world wars, the Great Depression, the space race and the growth of the state’s high-tech industries. 

“It serves as a guide book for the state’s bicentennial celebration that will begin in March 2017 and continue through 2019,” said Jay Lamar, executive director of the bicentennial celebration. “The history of Alabama is more than just the history of our one state.”

“When you read through the book it is amazing to see the impact that Alabama has made on the nation’s history. Some of the well-know people featured in the book are Hernando De Soto, Jefferson Davis, Booker T. Washington, W.C. Handy, F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Jesse Owens, the Tuskegee Airmen, George Wallace, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Wernher von Braun, Shug Jordan, Bear Bryant, Harper Lee, Hank Williams, Lionel Richie and Nick Saban.”

The book was written by Montgomery author Randall Williams.

“Randall did an excellent job with this book,” said Lee Sentell, state tourism director and vice chair of the bicentennial commission. “The narrative and imagery in this book are fantastic.  What Randall wrote comes together with the hundreds of featured photographs, maps and engravings to tell the real story of Alabama.”

The 12-inch by 9 ½ inch hardcover book is available for $29.95 and will be featured at the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery on April 23. It is available at Books-A-Million and other bookstores across the state.  It is also available at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop, The Goat Hill Museum Store inside the Alabama State Capital in Montgomery and online at and


Restoration of Shoals studio enters last stage

By Robert Palmer,, April 19

The restoration of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios is nearing its end with the installation of a vintage recording console.

Once it is wired in and brought back to working order, a decision will be made about when to open the historic studio.

“We are still working out details on a grand opening date and how the studio will be operated,” said Judy Hood, chairwoman of the nonprofit Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, which owns the studio.

Money for the restoration was provided by Beats by Dr. Dre, which now is owned by Apple.

“One thing we don’t want to do is rush into an operating model without very careful consideration,” Hood said. “This studio is a gem, and we want to use it to its fullest potential to preserve the legacy of Muscle Shoals music.”

For now, the foundation is considering a working model like that of Sun Studio in Memphis, which is a museum by day and a working studio by night.

The interior and exterior restoration is complete, which includes a new roof. Now, some more wiring is needed to install the API recording console in the control room, and to install speakers. The console originally was in RCA Studio B in Nashville, in the early 1970s, and later was in Chet Atkins’ home studio.

“It’s just a matter of getting it operational,” said Michael Cronin, an acoustician who is making sure the studio retains its original sound. “It is a beautiful API board. That’s the era we were looking to restore, the 1969-71 era.”

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios operated at the 3614 Jackson Highway location from 1969 until 1978, when it relocated to Alabama Avenue on the Tennessee River. It was sold to Malaco Records, of Jackson, Mississippi, in the mid-1980s.

Among the artists to record there with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were Cher, Paul Simon, the Staple Singers, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Bob Seger and Linda Ronstadt. The Rolling Stones recorded “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” there in 1969, and Lynyrd Skynyrd worked there, as well.

“Everybody who loves Muscle Shoals music owes an enormous debt to filmmakers Stephen Badger and Freddie Camalier for their documentary,” said Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Office.

The 2013 movie “Muscle Shoals” revived interest in the area’s music heritage, and drew attention to the new artists emerging from the Shoals.

“The financial support from Beats is a direct result of their film,” Sentell said.

Dr. Dre’s partner in Beats, legendary record producer Jimmy Iovine, said preserving the studio is important.

“Magic is a word that’s too often misused in the record industry,” he said. “Muscle Shoals is different. It’s one of those rare places where it really exists. Anytime you can capture such a distinct and authentic sound over and over again — that’s something worth preserving.”

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section — Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson — owned the studio. They got their start working for Rick Hall at FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, and with Atlantic Records vice president and producer Jerry Wexler.

Though closed since last September, people still come from all over the world to see the studio. The lobby is open, and merchandise is available there. During the time it was open for tours, beginning in March 2014, 29,000 people from 42 countries visited the studio, even though there virtually was nothing in it, Hood said.

“We are still a couple of months away from an official grand opening date,” Hood said. “We will have a private gala prior to the grand opening that will be a fundraiser for the nonprofit foundation.

“Many people have offered us substantial donations in exchange for the chance to be among the first to get a ‘sneak peek,’ ” she said. “This fundraiser has the potential to raise some significant funding that can be used for studio operations and educational outreach.”

To read this article online, go to:


Wall Street Journal spotlights local restaurants

By Tim Steere, Birmingham Business Journal, April 15

It’s no secret that Birmingham’s restaurant lineup is full of both timeless staples and new promise, but the Wall Street Journal this week brought two local meat and three’s to the top of the order.

Johnny’s Homewood and Niki’s West, both owned by the Hontzas family, were dubbed classics by the national publication, which highlighted the restaurants’ ability to stay true to simple southern roots with a dash of Greek heritage.

Meat and three’s in St. Louis, Missouri, Macon, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina and Nasvhille, Tennessee were also named. Birmingham was the only city to have two of its restaurants featured

To read this article online, go to:


Sports Illustrated profiles backstage experience at Mobile’s Senior Bowl

By Albert Chen, Sports Illustrated, April 18 – 25

Long before the draft and the combine, coaches, execs and hucksters get their first crack at new NFL meat at the five-day football carnival that is the Senior Bowl.

Are you interested in a vanilla shake that will increase your muscle mass by 4%?  A three-piece suit, perhaps?  Your head is spinning as you contemplate these questions; your legs are throbbing from four hours of mindless loitering.  You’re standing in a second-floor hotel lobby, but you feel as disoriented as a Wichita tourist in a Marrakesh street market.

Do not fret, though, for these are all merely indicators that you have officially arrived at the greatest (and strangest) football convention on earth.  It’s 11 p.m., and the hucksters have been unleashed inside a carpeted, windowless lobby that’s also crawling with agents, coaches, scouts, fans and media members.  And in the middle of it all, above the din, the best-dressed man in the room is screaming into his phone: “I’m sorry, honey, but I can’t talk right now.  I’m at the

Senior Bowl.  The Senior Bowl.  This is what I do!”

The best-dressed man in the room is Clarence Jones, and while he has never played a down of football in his life, he knows everyone at the Senior Bowl.  And everyone knows him.  The way he talks, you may think he’s the director of player personnel for some NFL team.  “Studying the board, there are a few 6’3”, 6’4” defensive ends, prototypical frames, that really stand out,” he says, adding pointedly, “and they would look good in a suit.”

To read this entire article online you may need to subscribe to this publication or wait until the current issue is off the stands.  The website is:


Hank Williams gravesite and Birmingham Civil Rights on ITV travel series

The United Kingdom’s second largest TV channel broadcasted the third in a series Billy Connolly’s Tracks Across America that included two stops in Alabama.  The program on ITV was aired on the popular 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday night timeslot.

The episode broadcast on April 15 showcased Connolly’s traveled from San Antonio, Texas to New York, which included two stops in Alabama.  Here is how ITV described Connolly’s Alabama visit:

“After a moving tribute at the graveside of one of Billy’s heroes – Hank Williams – it’s onto Birmingham, Alabama to hear the startling stories of the child crusaders who changed the course of history and segregation in the south.”

In a press release on the broadcasts, ITV called the show “an epic journey that puts Billy Connolly in the company of three things he loves dearly – trains, America and his banjo.”  The AmTrak Crescent passenger train has a stop in Birmingham which Connolly mentions.

For the three program series, Connolly visited 26 states and travelled more than 6,000 miles.

The stop in Alabama was coordinated by Brand USA, the Alabama Tourism Department, local CVBs in Montgomery and Birmingham and Della Tully, Alabama’s UK in-market representative.

For more information on Alabama’s marketing efforts in the UK, contact


Product development trip to Alabama a success

The first ever National Tour Association (NTA) Product Development Trip to Alabama has concluded after more than a year of planning. Alabama Tourism Group Sales Manager Rosemary Judkins submitted Alabama destinations to NTA for their Product Development program last year, with a tour date of April 12-16 of this year.  Once accepted by NTA, the trip was announced on NTA’s official website. 

Trips offered included other areas of the USA and foreign destinations such as China.

Franklin Fine, President and CEO of Sun Tours and Cruises of Albuquerque New Mexico and Michael Mishoko of Creative Tours of Orlando signed up for Alabama’s trip.  June Calk of NTA accompanied them on the tour of Alabama to write a travel log about their experience for all NTA tour operators to read. 

The operators toured Huntsville and Birmingham.  As a result of their trip, both have told Judkins they plan to bring their groups to Alabama in 2017.

For more information on how the Alabama Tourism Department markets to the group tour operators, contract


Alabama part of presentation to Caribbean travel industry

Travel South USA will hold a webinar with Caribbean tour operators and travel press this week (April 20th).

Alabama tourism information will be part of the presentation which will be viewable at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic and one of the Caribbean’s oldest cities. The webinar is designed as a low cost and effective way to reach that region’s tour companies and media.

In 2014, the number of international visitors to the USA from the Caribbean region was 1.3 million, a record level.

The event is being coordinated by the U.S. Commercial Service. For more information on how the U.S. Commercial Service aids in increasing Alabama tourism, contact:  

For more information on Alabama’s involvement with Travel South, contact

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell is a member of the Travel South USA board.


One of the country’s top farmers markets returns to Alabama this spring, April 12

The Market at Pepper Place is returning for its 16th year to Birmingham Saturday with a spring version that its founder said rivals the size of summer markets in previous years.

What once was confined to the parking lot of Pepper Place now takes place in the Pepper Place Market District in Lakeview, between Second and Third avenues South and 28th and 29th streets. The state’s largest weekly farmer’s market will be held every Saturday from 7 a.m. until noon until December.

“It’s bigger than it’s ever been,” the market’s founder, Cathy Sloss Jones, said. “We’ve got more than 100 tents for the spring market. It used to take the summer market to get that many farmers and artisans.”

Jones credited Birmingham chefs Frank Stitt, Chris Hastings and others who have emphasized the need for farmers to grow a variety of seasonal crops to enable restaurants to rely on local produce beyond the typical Alabama growing seasons.

As the Pepper Place vendors are approaching closer to year-round production, Jones said the Market at Pepper Place is anticipating becoming a year-round event as soon as 2017.

“I’ve been wanting to see it become year-round for some time now and it looks like we’re approaching a day when we will be able to make that a reality,” Jones said.

For now, the focus is on Saturday’s seasonal return, which will feature live music from Fiddlin’ in the Parlor and Debbie Bond and Radiator Rick.

Long-time market participants including Calvert Farms, Crocker Farm, Hepzibah Farm, Penton Farm, Snow’s Bend Farm and Southern Foothills return this weekend with the latest seasonal produce.

“We’ve got the older farmers that are returning and we couldn’t be happier about that,” Jones said. “But we’ve also got several new, young farmers who will be part of the market this year and that’s exciting.”

For those looking for something less, um, raw to eat, vendors will be selling breakfast burritos, doughnuts, sausage biscuits, scones and muffins. New this year is a spring brunch in Hastings’ latest restaurant, OvenBird, which will open at 9 a.m.

Prepared foods from artisan breads to zucchini relish will be sold and a host of non-food items ranging from jewelry and clothing to wood and metal art and a host of Alabama goods.

While such “Alabama makers” have always been a part of the Market at Pepper Place, Jones said that relationship will become more formal this summer when Pepper Place adds the Makers Village to the event. The new section is meant to coincide with the Alabama Department of Tourism’s “Year of the Alabama Maker” theme this year.

To read this article online, go to:


Alabama Makers Market

The Alabama Tourism Department is hosting its annual Alabama Makers Market on Thur., June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Alabama Makers are being showcased in order for the owners/managers of Alabama Gift Shops to see firsthand the products created and crafted right here in Sweet Home Alabama. 

Meet with buyers from Alabama Gift Shops in order to wholesale product(s) to them. 

Makers need to register now for free booth space and owners/managers need to RSVP.

The market will be open to the public for retail sales as well.

To RSVP or register, contact Leigh Cross at:


Battleship Commission announces newest appointment

USS Alabama Battleship Commission is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. William N. Tunnell to the USS Alabama Battleship Commission.  Tunnell was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to fill the Commission seat vacated by Janet Cobb when she was named the new executive director.  Tunnell will serve as Commissioner until Nov. 1, 2019.

Tunnell, who recently retired as executive director, brings a unique perspective to the Commission.  His knowledge of the tourism industry and the management and care of the historical properties of the Park will aid the commission as they continue to oversee the management of Battleship Memorial Park, south Alabama’s top tourist attraction. 

During Tunnell’s tenure he served as president of the Historic Naval Ships Association and as chairman of the Alabama Hospitality Association, Alabama Hotel & Motel Association and the Advisory Board of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel.   In 2014 Battleship Memorial Park was named Alabama’s Attraction of the Year by the Alabama Department of Tourism. 

“I am so excited about Bill’s appointment as a Commissioner,” stated COL Patrick Downing, chairman, USS Alabama Battleship Commission.  “His 25 years of experience at Battleship Memorial Park will be invaluable to the Commission.  Bill knows more about the USS Alabama than anyone alive.  I once told Bill that if the USS Alabama could ever get underway again, he would make a great captain for her.” 

Janet Cobb stated “Governor Bentley’s appointment of Bill Tunnell as the newest Battleship Commissioner is great news.  Bill’s association with Battleship Memorial Park spans a quarter-century, so his institutional knowledge is unmatched.  His contribution as a Commission will prove invaluable.”

USS Alabama Battleship Commission serves as the governing body for Battleship Memorial Park.  Commission members are appointed by the Governor and serve eight year terms.  

For more information on Battleship Memorial Park visit their website at or their FaceBook page at:


There’s still time to take pictures of the great (blooming & colorful) outdoors

To paraphrase an old song, Alabama’s Bustin’ Out All Over.  That means it’s time to get those cameras out and take pictures.  Here are a few helpful hints on how to get the best images for your efforts.

Take only interior images between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Old Sol is just too brutal at that time of day to get good outdoor shots.  When shooting exteriors make sure the sun is shining on the object of your lens.  Taking a picture in the afternoon of anything facing east doesn’t usually yield good results.

Also, attractive people can add a lot of interest to your images.  Make sure they’re wearing solid and bright-colored clothing.  Shorts and blue jeans should be worn only when they are appropriate to the location and/or event.  Have them face the camera and appear to be having a wonderful time – if they’re really having a great time that’s a bonus.

In tourism, as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.  Try to frame the images so that the location, attraction, event or other subject is obvious to the viewer.

Of course the Alabama Tourism Department always wants to get new images so, once you’ve captured all those green trees and flowering shrubs with your camera, you can send them to us.  We are looking for images that are at least 4” X 6” and 300 dpi.

Contact Peggy Collins at 334-242-4545 OR for information on how to send them.


Selma and Gulf Shores are finalists in the nominee list for a USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards

The nominees for Best Historic Small Town and Best Coastal Small Town 2016 were announced and Alabama represents 2 of the finalists competing for a spot in the winners list.

The famous Bloody Sunday conflict, when police attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators, took place at this bridge in Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. The Edmund Pettus Bridge has become a metaphorical bridge, too – a bridge between the old and the new, a representation of the major changes in the nation at that time. After thousands of demonstrators marched across this bridge and onward to Montgomery, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and Selma’s historic significance was cemented.  Selma is number 13 of 20 in Best Historic Small Towns.

Visitors to Gulf Shores, at the heart of the Alabama Gulf Coast, will be met with sugary-white sand beaches, Southern-style fresh seafood, championship golf courses and nearly any water sport you can imagine, thanks to the many nearby back bays and rivers. Preserves and state parks protect much of the region make Gulf Shores an ideal base for a natural coastal escape.  Gulf Shores is number 8 of 20 in Best Coastal Small Towns.

Prior campaigns have seen a full range of social media influencers: a US Senator, Governors, mayors, and – of course – those already loyal to the nominees.  I’m sure nominees would appreciate the support of Alabama during their campaign to win.

Voting ends for these categories on Mon., April 25, at 10:59 a.m.  You can rock the vote at and of course we encourage you to share the contest URL with your social network. The public can vote once per day, per category.

To follow live voting action (and discover the most active campaigns for award categories), search #10BestChoice on Twitter (we are @10Best).  Some contests also have custom hashtags, which you will discover.  You can also find the contests on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

In addition to these here are more Alabama sites in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice contests.


Check your Vacation Guide listing today

If you have an attraction, outdoor, bed and breakfast, cabin or golf course listing featured in the Alabama Vacation Guide, please check and update the information.  Review your listing in the 2016 Vacation Guide.


Contact us with changes as soon as possible.  If you would like to add a listing, please contact: Pam Smith at 334-353-4541.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

April 23 & 30                          April Walking Tours

April 26, 5 – 8 p.m.                 Alabama Legislative Tourism Reception                    Montgomery

                                                RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Avenue, 36104

April 27                                   Alabama Tourism Department Workshop                  Montgomery

June 9, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.          Alabama Makers Market                                             Montgomery

                                                RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Avenue, 36104


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