Tourism Tuesdays June 7, 2016

  • Alabama Tourism Department hosts marketplace for local vendors on Thursday
  • All of Alabama cashes in on beach boom as tourism records shatter
  • Why Baldwin County is extending summer break for students
  • Tourism impacts Decatur area
  • Affordable summer vacations possible with a few consumer tips
  • Birmingham’s Pepper Place farmers market adds Makers Village this summer
  • Forbes names Birmingham one of the top summer travel spots
  • Gold Record Room opens to the public
  • Brand USA German travel agents in the state this week
  • German photo project underway
  • Top international journalists on tour in Alabama
  • Chef at Odette restaurant in Florence wins Alabama Seafood Cook-Off
  • Bicentennial Commission holds information session in Tuscumbia on Thursday
  • Birmingham announced as location of 2016 Alabama Welcome Center retreat
  • Cullman Chamber hires new tourism director
  • Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30
  • Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing
  • Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events



Alabama Tourism Department hosts marketplace for local vendors on Thursday

The Alabama Tourism Department will assist local vendors with getting their goods sold at gift shops across the state when it hosts the Alabama Makers Marketplace on Thursday, June 9 in Montgomery.  The event is free and will be open to the public.

“This is a great opportunity to bring producers of Alabama-made goods together with gift shop managers,” said marketplace coordinator Leigh Cross with the state tourism department.  “Travelers are always looking for things that are authentic and represent our state. We want to make sure that the gift shops at our top tourist attractions feature items from companies that are producing goods and creating jobs here in Alabama.”

The Alabama Makers Marketplace is 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on June 9 in the exhibit hall of the RSA Activity Center at 201 Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery.  The event is part of the state tourism department’s promotion of The Year of Alabama Makers.

Some 22 vendors have already registered for the marketplace including: AMaDe Accessories, Montgomery; Aqualime, Montgomery; Chip Ghigna Art, Homewood; Earthborn Studios, Inc., Leeds; Fox Point Farm, Montgomery; G Mommas, Selma; Hot Damn Jelly Co., Auburn; Innovative Logo Products, Montgomery; Jabez Enterprises, Opelika; Kudzu Kreationz, Arley.

Also coming are: Mighy Fine Print Shop, Montevallo; Naturally Rad, Prattville; Rebecca Koontz Studio; Greensboro; Wickles Pickles, Dadeville; Stately Made, Vestavia; The Cheek Collection, Notasulga; The Produce Wagon, Munford; To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co., Fitzpatrick; Todd Farms, Headland; Tuffets To You, Birmingham; Turnings by Bruce, Grand Bay; Tuskegee History Center, Tuskegee.

All of Alabama cashes in on beach boom as tourism records shatter

From the article “All of Alabama cashes in on beach boom as tourism records shatter” by John Sharp on

 When Rep. Steve McMillan talks with a northern Alabama lawmaker about the need for more money to build coastal roads or bridges, his plea is sometimes met with envy.

“They say, ‘Don’t tell me about it,'” McMillan, the Republican lawmaker from Gulf Shores, said. “They’ll say, ‘Every time my wife goes down there she’s spending money at the Tanger.’ It’s in a joking way, but a lot of them envy our situation.”

He added, “I can tell you, I’d rather have our situation than other places in the state.”

The statistics back up McMillan’s point. For the fifth consecutive year, Baldwin County – fueled by beach-bound travelers to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach – enjoyed record-setting growth in the number of visitors, travel-related employment and earnings.

According to Alabama Tourism Department figures from last year, the coastal area helped fuel a surge in the dollars spent by travelers in Alabama. At $12.6 billion, the state saw a 7.7 percent rise in spending over 2014. That tourism success also sent more money flowing into the General Fund. In 2015, state lodging tax revenues totaled $47 million, nearly double the figure of dozen years earlier.

Baldwin County saw 6.1 million visitors in 2015,up from 5.7 million in 2014 and representing a quarter of the overall visitors coming to Alabama. Baldwin-bound visitors spent an estimated $3.9 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2014. The beach is clearly the attraction, and the benefits extend statewide, as travelers pass through and stop to take in the sights.

“The beach is by far the biggest magnet and the biggest destination that drives the statewide tourism industry,” said Lee Sentell, director of the state’s tourism department.

An analysis by the U.S. Travel Association shows beaches at the No. 5 leisure travel option for domestic travelers, trailing only trips to visit relatives, friends, shopping and fine dining.

Beach traffic and tourism throughout Florida is also breaking records. Total sales in Florida’s hotels and lodgings were up 11.1 percent in 2015, and restaurants sales were up 8.2 percent. In the Florida beach city closest to Alabama, Pensacola, bed tax revenues jumped 9 percent over 2014.

“It’s obvious the national economy is on the upswing,” said Sentell. “When people feel more confident about their financial prospects for a year, nationally the tourism industry reflects that.”

Early indicators for 2016 show a sixth consecutive record-breaking year is on the way. As of April, coastal Alabama recorded a lodging occupancy rate of 76.4 percent, up from 67.6 percent in 2015. Retail sales are up 10 percent from $145.8 million during the first three months of 2015 to $160.6 million from January to March.

Herb Malone, president and CEO of the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, said he believes coastal Alabama’s spring break returns will show an overall economic impact bigger than 2014. April’s numbers are expected within the next week.

If that occurs, the surge will have taken place at the same time that the city of Gulf Shores temporarily banned alcoholic beverages on its beaches. The ban was placed after a large crowd of college students overwhelmed the city’s public services during the first week of the annual spring break season.

In Panama City Beach, Fla., an alcohol crackdown severely dented spring break crowds. In Gulf Shores, the visitors poured in anyway.

“Our traditional spring break was families with kids and the high-school-age kids,” Malone said. “They go out to the clubs, but it’s not this outright out-of-control debauchery you have in some locations.”

Memorial Day weekend, the symbolic start of the summer travel season, “was the biggest we’ve had,” Malone said, based on his conversations with business owners and managers.

The challenges of the growth persist, especially with traffic. And Interstate 10 has become a focal point for the struggles.  Bayway traffic jams extend for miles on summer weekends, but are now also becoming routine on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons during spring and summer months.

Alabama’s tourism continues to surge each year driven largely because of Baldwin County’s beach cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. With the growth comes challenges and coastal Alabama leaders want Montgomery to bring more money back to the area for road and infrastructure improvements.

“I’ve seen it being exacerbated,” said Wiley Blankenship, president & CEO of the Coastal Alabama Partnership, speaking of the I-10 woes. “It could be with people taking vacations earlier or beating the traffic and leaving a day earlier.”

Coastal lawmakers are working together to push forward a $850 million new bridge over the Mobile River and a widening of the Bayway.  Efforts are also under way to move forward road and bridge projects in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

State statistics show that the record-breaking tourism is saving lawmakers from having to make difficult choices when it comes to tax increases.

According to the Alabama Tourism Department, the $797 million of state and local tax revenues generated by travel and tourism last year saved each household in Alabama from having to pay $424 in additional taxes to maintain current service levels.

Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, said that the tourism growth equates to a rise of $2.6 billion of new revenue into the state. “Tell me another industry that is generating $2.6 billion of new revenues? I don’t know it. It’s helping local economies all the way across the state. Whether you are in the smallest county or community … you are receiving a benefit from what goes on down here.”

Davis, McMillan and other lawmakers plan to continue to push for more BP settlement money to return to the coast for road projects. Davis says that the state’s debt problems were mounting in the years before the 2010 oil spill disaster. “We were in a down economy called the recession, and had knocked on the door of proration,” he said.

Kennon, Blankenship and Malone all said that the coastal area is also in need of more workers to fill service-sector jobs.

The Baldwin County school board, last week, approved a one-week extension of summer vacation that will keep the tourism season going a few extra days, and let students stick with their summer jobs a little longer.

Malone said entertainment venues like Waterville have to shut down once summer vacation ends because student workers return to the classrooms.

As demand for coastal lodging rises, Brett Robinson which represents the Phoenix condominiums, is building two new towers. A 22-story structuring featuring 80 three- and four-bedroom units will open in Gulf Shores next year. In Orange Beach, a 21-story, 114 three- and four-bedroom building is slated for a 2018 opening.

More hotels are also coming. Springhill Suites at The Wharf will open next month. Hampton Inn by Hilton opened in Gulf Shores last month. And the Best Western Premier, Tides Hotel is opening June 22 in Orange Beach.

“Hotel demand is certainly there, in particular for the weekends,” said Malone.

As in the past, most visitors to Alabama beaches come from elsewhere in the South, such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.While Florida is a hot spot for East Coast tourists, Alabama has been unable to lure New Yorkers and others. New Yorkers are flocking Florida each year for vacations, while Alabama is drawing tourists from states like Texas and Louisiana and the Midwest.

Sentell said his department plans to announce soon a new marketing strategy. “We are going to be extending our reach and going into markets we have not traditionally been in,” he said.

At the same time, in-state tourism is expected to flourish, he added.

“I think people statewide appreciate the scale and size and the impact of tourism,” Sentell said. “People who haven’t been to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach in 10 years but then come to visit, they have to be impressed with the expansion of lodging facilities and restaurants and shopping. They have to be proud that this is in their state.”

To read the entire article online, go to:


Why Baldwin County is extending summer break

From the article “Why Baldwin County is extending summer break for students at a time of record-breaking tourism” by John Sharp on

Baldwin County’s 30,000-plus school students are getting an extended summer break thanks to a push by state lawmakers and tourism leaders to keep the coastal area’s economy humming for a few more days in August.

The decision, approved by the county school board Tuesday with a 5-1 vote, puts off the start of school to Aug. 22. That’s a week later than the previously considered Aug. 15 start date.

“This is such a large revenue-producing system with tourism, especially in the spring and summer months and into early fall,” Superintendent Eddie Tyler said. “The discussions have been that if we can just prolong the beginning of the school year a little bit for students, then it equates to dollars.”

The shifting schedule eliminates four half-days that the school system has traditionally reserved at the end of each quarter. For 2016-17, those days will be full school days for teachers and students. Also, a scheduled Oct. 17 teachers’ workshop day – a day off for students – will become a regular full-day of school.

The changes do not affect the extended holidays during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break or Mardi Gras.

“Generally, you will get an opinion from most people that the half-days don’t really produce a whole lot,” Tyler said.

The schedule change comes as Baldwin’s beach cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, as well as Foley, continue to see record-breaking tourist numbers. 

According to the Alabama Tourism Department, Baldwin County attracted 6.1 million visitors in 2015, up from 5.7 million in 2014. The Gulf Coast accounted for 40 percent of the travel-related expenditures in Alabama in 2015. By starting school later, Tyler said, merchants get more time to capitalize on families who want to spend time at the beaches. And student workers get another week at their summer jobs.

State lawmakers joined in urging the school system to switch to the later start date.

Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, said he’d asked for the change for years. “As our schools continue to start earlier and earlier, we miss out and create havoc for businesses on the coast from Foley on the way down,” Davis said. “The Causeway and Bayway … the restaurant industry, is huge. We have to say that this is our industry and this what we do and we’re open for business.”

Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, wished that the schools would start even later – after Labor Day. “I think it’s good for children, but economically for Baldwin County, to have a long summer,” he said.

Pittman said he hopes that Baldwin County’s decision sets an example statewide. Some school systems begin school during the first week of August. For example, Huntsville City, Madison City and the Madison County systems start on Aug. 3, a date that falls ahead of Alabama’s back-to-school sales tax holiday held during the first weekend of in August.

“Once school starts back, people shift back to the fall agenda and skip the beach,” Pittman said. “If we’re starting later in Baldwin county, maybe other systems in the state will follow.”

Jefferson County Schools also pushed back their start date for 2016-17. There, classes begin Aug. 11, about a week later than last year. Most school systems in Alabama, including the Mobile County Public Schools, are starting the year on Aug. 10. The issue, in fact, could surface in the next Legislature. Davis said he’s working a bill to establish a committee that will look at a uniform statewide school calendar.

A state law passed in 2013 prohibited school systems from starting school more than two weeks before Labor Day or ending after the Friday before Memorial Day. But the law was effective for only one year. After it expired, individual school systems were free to tweak their own calendars.

Davis said the school year’s impact to coastal condominiums is noticeable, where occupancies in July and early August range from 90-100 percent before plummeting to fewer than 40 percent before Labor Day weekend. “That’s a lot of money from our community and a lot of restaurants losing a lot of workers who they employ from the school system,” he said.

Baldwin County has been slowly pushing its calendar back since the 2010-11 school year, after it was first approached by the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, now known as the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. The 2015-16 school year began on Aug. 17, a move from the originally planned Aug. 13.

Board member David Tarwater, the only “No” vote on delaying the start date, said he was happy with the way the 2016-17 school calendar looked.

He argued that the board was simply bowing to state lawmakers whose influence that it needs to win an extension of a penny sales tax for schools. That tax is set to end in May 2018.

“At some point, our delegation will have to make a decision: Are they going to fund public education in Baldwin County?” Tarwater said during the board’s May 19 meeting when the calendar changes were first discussed. “If we don’t get the penny renewed, it will be brutal and devastate the system. At some point, those men have got to decide if they will fund public education.”

Davis and Pittman said the calendar change isn’t related to the fate of the sales tax extension. Baldwin County’s legislative delegation could vote to make the sales tax permanent, or it could opt to place the extension on the ballot.

Tyler has said he hopes the delegation endorses a two-year extension of the sales tax to 2020, at which time the question of whether it should be permanent will go before voters.

Tyler, during the May 19 meeting, said the board faces financial “Armegeddon” if it loses the 1 percent sales tax, which has been in place since 2010. At stake, he said, is $40 million at a time when the school system is growing and about half of the system’s 45 campuses are overcrowded.

Baldwin County added 3,000 residents last year and it’s growth continues to elate and worry local leaders.

“(We) encourage the school board to make decisions for the students and for the efficiency of the schools,” Pittman said. “As far as the tax being extended, there will be another vote on the tax. I wouldn’t expect the tax to be extended any length of time beyond getting to an election.”

 To read the entire article online, go to:

Tourism impacts Decatur area

From the article “Tourism impacts local area” by Kris Martins in The Decatur Daily:

Tourism is more than handing someone stacks of paper with information, said Melinda Dunn, president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Tourism isn’t just some kind of feel good, ‘Hey, here’s a brochure. Welcome to Decatur,’ ” Dunn said. “It is vital to the economic health of the city.”

Travelers spent $159 million and were responsible for 1,903 jobs in Morgan County last year, which represents a 6.3 percent increase in spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation, according to an Alabama Tourism Department report

.The visitors bureau documents hotel room nights, focusing on lodging tax, of which it receives a portion for its funding, Dunn said.

In 2015, Morgan County collected nearly $800,000 in lodging tax, up 6.3 percent from 2014, according to the state Tourism Department.

Between Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, and May 31, the city of Decatur collected about $485,000 through the 6-percent lodging tax and more than $80,000 through a 1-percent event lodging tax that helps offset the cost of special events held by the Parks and Recreation Department, according to data provided by Decatur Finance Supervisor Charlene Brueggeman.

The combined city lodging tax dollars has surpassed the amount collected at the same time the year before. The tax collections are used to help measure seasonal travel-related activities in each county and at the state level. And with more events, lodging tax increases, Dunn said.

“As far as (fiscal) 2016, we’re 10 percent up for the year right now,” Dunn said. The bureau sends reports to be completed by hotels to estimate room nights filled during special events. The bureau then calculates the estimated economic impact of special events through a formula provided by the state Tourism Department and prepared by an Auburn economist that takes room nights, average room rate and lodging values into account.

The busiest time for hotels is mid-March to mid-July, Dunn said. Within the last couple of months, Decatur hosted the Bassmaster Elite Series, Dragon Boat Race, Soulstock and the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, along with other annual and special events.

January through March tends to be less busy, but the bureau is hoping to add more events through the winter months. The bureau sets goals to retain and bring more events to the area while preserving a strong hotel occupancy rate. As a result of tourism, businesses and restaurants in the area have expressed sales jumps with an influx of visitors, Dunn said.

“There was one retailer at the mall who had a close to 200 percent increase in sales during USA Archery, so these events do mean something,” Dunn said.

Local and sporting events have helped Albany Bistro in Decatur, Managing Partner Rick Brown said. And most of that impact comes through weekend business. “We’re impacted evenly throughout the year rather than seasonally,” Brown said. “Tourism definitely drives business to Albany Bistro.” Some weekends the restaurant sees a 100 percent gain, and events that begin Thursday can significantly impact Friday through Sunday business.

The three counties in the state with the most travel-related spending are Baldwin, Jefferson and Madison counties, with Baldwin County touting $3.9 billion, according to the state Alabama Tourism Department.

To read the entire article online, go to:

Affordable summer vacations possible with a few consumer tips

From the report “Affordable summer vacations possible with a few consumer tips” by Hannah Lane on WSFA-12:

Children are out of school for the summer, and it seems to be a great time to get away and go on a vacation. But those trips can often turn into pricey ones. The recent Memorial Day weekend kicked off summer travel with a bang. AAA says 2016 was the second busiest travel season in history for that holiday!

“I think that’s a really strong indicator for the level of travel we’re going to see throughout the summer and the rest of the year,” according to Clay Ingram with AAA of Alabama.

If you are one of those who may be hitting the road for vacation, Ingram says there are things you can do before hitting the road to make that trip more affordable.

“Timing is always important,” Ingram stresses. “If you are going to beach this summer, you have to understand that certain weeks are going to cost you more than other weeks. Fourth of July week or any holiday week is obviously going to be higher demand time period. So, usually the prices are going to be a little bit higher. So look for those weeks that aren’t as popular where the demand is less,” Ingram adds.

Ingram says to save money you should do your homework and research for any deals. He says you can even call the hotels yourself to see if they are offering specials or discounts. Ingram also suggests planning ahead. Take everything you need with you instead of buying items at your destination.

“A lot of people will take things they can cook or eat in hotel room to save a little money on some of their eating expenses,” claims Ingram. “Just a lot of different things you can do to cut corners and save a little money so you can splurge on some of the things that are important to you.”

Brian Jones with the Alabama Tourism Department says if you are heading to the state’s beaches try to see about certain deals when it comes to how long you stay. “Our beaches the longer you stay, typically you get a better deal,” Jones admitted. “Also, our beaches have a lot of condos, and that’s great for families or groups of friends.”  Jones also says you can also save some green if you think outside of the box, choosing to go to not-so-common destinations. “There’s a lot of great deals on the state parks, and it’s a cool alternate destination,” he said.

Experts say you can always turn to travel agencies because often they know about the bargains, plus it will save you time and stress.

AAA travel agents don’t charge anything to help you get something booked, and you don’t even have to be a member to get that service!

To view the report online, go to:  

Birmingham’s Pepper Place farmers market adds Makers Village this summer

From the article “Birmingham’s Pepper Place farmers market adds Makers Village this summer” by Bob Carlton on

Brewers, distillers, quilters, metal artists, clothing designers, motorcycle builders and dozens more “Alabama Makers” will demonstrate and sell their wares throughout the summer at a new addition to Birmingham’s Market at Pepper Place.

The new Makers Village started this past Saturday and continues every Saturday through Sept. 3 at Pepper Place. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon.

The Makers Village is part of the Alabama Tourism Department’s “The Year of Alabama Makers” campaign.

“Alabama is really, really full of people who are extremely accomplished and extraordinarily gifted,” Leigh Sloss-Corra, the executive director for the Market at Pepper Place, says. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how incredibly talented these people are.”

The Makers Village takes place in the parking lot outside OvenBird restaurant and Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery, near the corner of 28th Street and Third Avenue South.

Each Saturday, the village will feature 25 tents and display areas, showcasing a rotating lineup of Alabama makers, as well as food vendors and musical guests.

Also each Saturday, two of the Alabama makers will present workshops in the Scene Art Gallery adjacent to the Makers Village. Those presentations take place at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Antiques salvager Garlan Gudger — co-owner of Southern Accents Architectural Antiques and founder of the Southern Makers festival — will be this Saturday’s guest presenter at 10 a.m., followed by herbalist Cameron Strouss of Deep Roots Apotheke & Clinic at 11 a.m.

In the coming weeks, the guest presenters will include Tena Payne of Earthborn Pottery, Gee’s Bend quiltmaker Mary Virginia Pettway, Marshall Christie of Sloss Furnaces Metal Arts, and Matt Chambers of Confederate Motors.

To find out more about the Makers Village at the Market at Pepper Place, go to

To read the entire article online, go to:


Forbes names Birmingham one of the top summer travel spots

From the article “Forbes names Birmingham one of the top summer travel spots” by Tim Steere in “The Birmingham Business Journal:

Birmingham is one of the top summer travel destinations according to Forbes.

In a list of the top 20 cities for summer travel, Birmingham ranked among some tourism heavyweights including Portland, Oregon and Havana, Cuba. The site named a diverse pool of international cities as well.

“History buffs can tour the Civil Rights District, music-lovers can explore the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and foodies have a plethora of great dining spots like barbecue at Saw’s,” the site said on its website. “Looking for drinks? There’s a 24-hour bar filled with comic book art and Star Wars memorabilia.”

To read the entire article online, go to: 


Gold Record Room opens to the public

From the article “Gold Record Room opens to the public” by Robert Palmer in the Times Daily:

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is firmly planted in Tuscumbia, but those visiting the north side of the Tennessee River can get a taste of it downtown.

Marty Abroms and Bill Lyons, who own the Sun Trust bank building on Court Street in Florence, have created a public space on the ground floor that contains memorabilia on loan from the hall of fame, as well as Muscle Shoals music items loaned by private collectors.

They call it the Shoals Gold Record Room.

“This space was underutilized for 20 years,” Lyons said. “When we bought it, we wanted it to reflect the area, to pay tribute to our musical heritage that we are all so proud of.”

The L-shaped room is hung with gold records representing hits recorded in Muscle Shoals studios during the past 50 years. It is equipped with an audio-visual system, a bar and other amenities that may be used for public and private events.

One of the collectors who has loaned items to the room is Steve Price. He has framed and autographed 45’s, guitars and other items on display. Price, a Sheffield resident who is manager of the Shoals Theatre in downtown Florence, said he has always admired the musicians and songwriters who have made the area famous worldwide. “These are guys that I look up to,” he said. “I’m glad to see their music finally get the front row.”

The Shoals Gold Record Room was previewed two weeks ago for state and local officials and for musicians. Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, said the room is a prime example of how local businesses can partner with their creative communities to promote the arts as well as economic development.

“I hope the business communities in other cities will take this idea and support the creative community in similar ways,” Sentell said. “This shows the business community is embracing the music industry and the hall of fame in ways that haven’t been done before.”

Abroms said giving the unused room a Muscle Shoals music theme was a natural fit for them. “We both love community theater and the arts,” he said of the partners. “This, to me, is why we work: to enjoy music and the arts. Bill and I wanted to make sure people know how special these musicians are. We have taken our music for granted for too long.”

Abroms said the 2013 documentary movie “Muscle Shoals” has revitalized interest in not only the past glories of the local music business, but the present successes.


To read the entire article online, go to:


Brand USA German travel agents in the state this week

A group of twelve German travel agents are visiting Alabama this week as part of a Brand USA tour across the south.  The group will be visiting sites in North Alabama on an Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee tour.  Among the sites they will see are music studios in The Shoals area and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

The German Travel agents are from top companies and had to be a top seller of USA travel to qualify for the trip.  While they are in Alabama, they will be escorted by Raphael Tenschert of Alabama Tourism Partnership’s representative firm in Germany.  The firm helped Alabama become part of the Brand USA Travel Agent trip.


On the Brand USA press trip are:

1. Kristin Andelsberger, Reisebuero Horizonte 

2. Kirsten Edelhoff, Kreuztaler Reisebüro TUI ReiseCenter 

3. Alexandra Heussner, Hapag-Lloyd Reisebüro TUI Deutschland 

4. Ulrike Kaia Dietz, Reisebüro Plate 

5. Laura Martha Stephanie Hoetzel, Reiseland R+N Reisen 

6. Anke Ute Schlutow, DER Touristik – Ihr Reisepartner 

7. Daniela Iwersen, Reisebüro Palmenblau 

8. Eva-Maria Neubauer, TUI ReiseCenter Ettlingen 

9. Anna-Lena Maschek, Reisetreff Alpen 

10. Stefanie Seis, TUI TRAVELStar Reisebüro Seis 

11. Rudolf Heinz Willi Frenken, KP-Reisen 

12. Mario Zimmer, TUI ReiseCenter 


For more information on how Alabama Tourism Department markets to the German market, contact


German photo project underway

A photographer from Germany has been touring Alabama to photograph and compile a library of tourism photographs.  The project is part of Alabama Tourism Department’s efforts to increase the effectiveness of marketing efforts in Europe. 

Raphael Tenschert started his Alabama photo session on May 22 and will conclude on June 8.  Each photograph will be taken from a European traveler view point and will used to promote Alabama by being part of the library of photographs given to journalist and tour operators that feature Alabama destinations.


Tencshert is a member of Alabama Tourism Partnership representative firm in German.  While in Alabama he will also escort a group of travel agents on a press trip in north Alabama.

For more information on Alabama’s photo library, contact

Top international journalists on tour in Alabama

Music is the feature of a June 2-7 press trip of top journalists currently underway in Alabama.  The journalists are from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Australia and the United Kingdom and represent both print and broadcast media.

In Birmingham the journalist will enjoy the Steel City Jazz Festival in Birmingham, the backyard juke joint Gip’s Place and live gospel music.  A visit to the Shoals area will include the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the historic music studios of FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio on Jackson Highway.  One of the journalist is extending his visit to visit Athens, hometown of Grammy-winning American blues rock band Alabama Shakes.

The trip is designed to increase tourism to Alabama by featuring interesting music destinations that the journalists will be inspired to write about or broadcast when they return home.

The journalist on the tour are:

Knut Benzner, a radio producer at Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and other major German Radio Networks

Thomas Klingebiel, a staff editor and music travel specialist at Neue Westfaelische and Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung

Franziska Trost, a staff editor and at Krone Zeitung, Austria’s largest daily newspaper

Marlies Maria Seifert, editor at 20 Minuten, one of the largest Swiss daily newspapers

Mathias Begalke, editor at RND

Chistoph Elbern, Editor of Aerztliches Journal Reise & Medizin, a high-quality travel magazine for physicians

Stefan Betschon – Editor of NZZ Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Switzerland

Mike Gerrard – UK writer. Written over 30 guide books and chosen as one of the Press Gazette’s 50 most influential travel journalists in the UK.

Jonathan Wingate – producing radio content for the BBC.

Marc Stakenburg – Nationally known DJ in The Netherlands and TV presenter

Sebastian Van Oort – Top freelance writer from The Netherlands

Kristie Kellahan – Australian journalist currently based in America.


The trip is being escorted by Verna Gates, a Birmingham based writer, storyteller, speaker and photographer. She frequently reports for Reuters, TIME and other national and international publications. 

Journalists were invited on the trip by Grey Brennan of the Alabama Tourism Department with follow up by the Alabama Tourism Department’s representatives in the UK, Australia, Germany and the Benelux countries.

For more information on how Alabama Tourism Department markets to the international market, contract

Chef at Odette restaurant in Florence wins Alabama Seafood Cook-Off

From the article “And the Alabama Seafood Cook-off winner is…” by Bob Carlton on

Josh Quick, the executive chef at Odette restaurant in Florence, beat three fellow Alabama chefs to win the second annual Alabama Seafood Cook-Off on Wednesday night at The Wharf in Orange Beach.

Quick won with a recipe that was built around fresh Alabama red snapper.

“There was a lot of talking about it, writing stuff down, drawing pictures — and then we did a couple of practice runs beforehand,” Quick said in a statement. “Ever since we found out we were competing, from then on, we’ve been talking about it. We took some really strong flavors with a spice blend that we used and paired it with the snapper, and we also included spring vegetables that mirror some things we’re currently doing at the restaurant.”

Quick will advance to represent Alabama in the 13th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans, and he is an automatic qualifier in the 2016 World Food Championship, which also will be held at The Wharf. Both of those events are scheduled for later this year.

The other finalists in Wednesday’s Alabama Seafood Cook-Off were Gillian Clark of Kitchen on George in Mobile, Leonardo Maurelli III of Ariccia Trattoria in Auburn, and Brody Olive of Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach. The chefs’ dishes were judged on presentation; general impressions and serving methods; creativity and practicality; composition and harmony of ingredients; correct preparation and craftsmanship; and flavor, taste and texture.

“We were blown away by our finalists last night,” Chris Blankenship, director of Marine Resources and program administrator for Alabama Gulf Seafood, said. “They truly brought their best to the table. We look forward to watching Josh compete at both GASCO and the World Food Championship and know he will represent Alabama well.”

Birmingham chef George Reis of the restaurants Ocean and 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar won the inaugural Alabama Seafood Cook-Off in 2015 and was one of the judges for the 2016 contest.

To read the entire article online, go to:

Bicentennial Commission holds information session in Tuscumbia on Thursday

The Tennessee Valley Museum of Art in Tuscumbia is the next stop for ALABAMA 200 staff members as they make their way across the state hosting a series of public information sessions. The session, planned for Thursday, June 9th, 2PM, is free and open to the public.

Beginning in 2017, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission will kick off a three-year commemoration period and launch significant projects and initiatives—such as traveling history exhibitions and professional development for teachers—that will serve the entire state. Local communities, though, will be the heart of the commemoration, and the information session will outline plans, share ideas and discuss resources designed to support activities for towns and cities.

The session will also help organizations, businesses, civic and social clubs, churches and other groups think about how they would like to participate.

From family reunions to school service projects, from museum exhibitions to common reading programs, and from recipe collections to oral history interviews, there will be many ways that individuals, groups and communities can involve themselves in the state’s milestone birthday.

In 2013, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission was established by the governor and the legislature to begin planning for the state’s 200th anniversary. For more information about the bicentennial, visit, or call 334-242-4537.

To register for the session, please click the link here:

Birmingham announced as location of 2016 Alabama Welcome Center retreat

The 2016 Welcome Center Retreat will be held in Birmingham November 13-16.  The Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning a city tour for the 40 employees of the Alabama Welcome Centers. As in the past tourism partners from around the state will have an opportunity for one on one time with the men and women who welcome approximately 2 million travelers to our Welcome Centers annually.

Additional time is being added this year for the city tour as well as time with the partners. Exhibitor and lodging information will be available soon. Assisting with this year’s Retreat is Patti Culp from the Alabama Travel Council.

For more information call Debbie Wilson, Welcome Center Administrator at 334-353-4516.

Cullman Chamber hires new tourism director

From the article “Cullman Chamber hires new tourism director” by Trent Moore in the Cullman Times:

The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce has hired a new tourism director, following the departure of previous director Cecelia Smith in March.

The Chamber has announced the appointment of Jesse Newsom as the organization’s new Director of Tourism, his official start date was May 31.

Newsom has eight years of experience in the tourism industry, having served at the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau since 2012. He has also worked in sports marketing, economic impact collection, ROI feasibility bidding, database collection, and management specific to tourism. He received his B.S. in Recreation Administration from Middle Tennessee State University and holds certifications in numerous tourism and marketing fields.

“The Chamber Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Jesse and his family,” Sammie Danford, Chamber Chair, said in a statement. “We expect his vast experience and background will help take the visitors center in new and exciting directions.” Chamber President Leah Bolin added her office is “fortunate to have Jesse join our team as we continue our efforts to promote the Cullman Area.” Newsom and his wife Natalie have 2 children, 4-year-old Jack and 18-month-old Jenna Kate.

To read the entire article online, go to:

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline June 30

It’s time to get your 2017 information in for the official annual Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events.  The deadline for submitting items for the printed version is June 30. 

Using the Alabama Tourism industry partners website will simplify entering and managing your events/attractions in the database at  Sign up for an account if you don’t already have one and then you will be able to create/update items for the Guide. 

 For assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at

Alabama Restaurant Week sign up in full swing

Restaurants are being asked to sign up for Alabama Restaurant Week 2016.  The sign-up period began May 9 and will run through July 29. 

Last year 196 restaurants participated in the promotion. 

Courtney Austin with the state tourism department will serve as special coordinator for Alabama Restaurant Week.  She will be assisting with sign-up and formatting entries.

Alabama Restaurant Week is a marketing event that highlights restaurants in the state.  This culinary event unites the state’s diverse range of cuisine into a 10-day event.  

Participating restaurants offer two-course lunch and/or three-course dinner offerings at an attractive set price.  A three-course dinner should include a starter, main course and dessert while the two-course lunch should include a main course and either a starter or dessert. Specialty restaurants with very limited menus may have pre-fixed meal offerings that are not multi-course.

There are no coupons or discount books to buy or bring. Just ask for an Alabama Restaurant Week meal at a participating restaurant during the promotion time period and enjoy.  With the promotion’s pre-set prices, you know before making your plans what your cost will be. 

Participating restaurants are listed on the website with exact meal offerings once they are known.  The Alabama Restaurant Week pricing is fixed at $10, $20 or $30 for dinner and $5, $10 or $15 for lunch.  In all cases, the price is per person and does not include tax, tip and drink.  Restaurants may offer a meal at all or just one of the preset prices.  A restaurant’s regular menu will also be available.

When is Alabama Restaurant Week?  Alabama Restaurant Week is set for Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 21.

Which Restaurants Can Participate in Alabama Restaurant Week?  To qualify for participation, a restaurant must be a locally owned and operated restaurant in Alabama and/or a restaurant in the state that is important to the Alabama tourism industry.  Most chain restaurants do not quality.  The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right to include or deny any restaurant.  A restaurant does not have to be featured in the popular “l00 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” brochure to participate. 

How Many Different Meal Preset Prices Must a Restaurant Offer?  A restaurant may participate in all three preset prices for both lunch or dinner, or just one or any combination.  It is not necessary to participate in both lunch and dinner. 

What about a Restaurant’s Regular Menu?  In addition to the Alabama Restaurant Week meal listings, a restaurant should still use their regular menu. 

Is There a Cost to Participate?  The Alabama Tourism Department does not charge a fee. 

How does a restaurant sign up?  Go to  Restaurants that participated last year should click on the highlighted area that reads “Already a member?  Click here” and update their entry form, paying close attention to check the box that reads “I want to participate this year.”  Restaurants that have not participated before, should click on the highlighted area that reads “Sign up your Restaurant It’s quick and easy.”

Restaurants may register to participate and later put in their Alabama Restaurant Week special. The Alabama Tourism Department will send promotional material to restaurants that sign up.

Can a local restaurant week be conducted during Alabama Restaurant Week?  Yes, Chambers, Convention and Visitor Bureaus and other destination marketing organizations who conduct a local restaurant week during the same period and with the same guidelines are requested to let the Alabama Tourism Department know.

For more information, contact or



Alabama Tourism Department upcoming events

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

                                                RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Avenue, 36104

Aug. 20 – 23                           Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism            Orange Beach


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