Tourism Tuesdays October 4, 2016

  • Alabama Tourism Workshop Wednesday
  • President Obama, the ultimate tourist, ticks down his bucket list
  • Direct flights have begun between Huntsville and New Orleans
  • State parks attract migrating birds and the tourists who track them
  • The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddler’s Convention celebrates 50 years
  • TV celebrity chef to judge at World Food Championships  
  • USA Today Reader’s Choice awards best covered bridge
  • Openings for Tourism Promotional Representatives
  • 2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Alabama Tourism Workshop Wednesday

The Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) will hold its fall Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wednesday, Oct. 5. 

The ATD offers a workshop twice a year for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area.  This workshop gives participants an opportunity to talk with staff members from each ATD division. 

For additional information and to register, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or e-mail: Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov.

Mark your calendar for the 2017 ATD Spring Workshop, which will be held on April 12, 2017, in Montgomery.


President Obama, the ultimate tourist, ticks down his bucket list

By Michael D. Shear, White House Letter, The New York Times, Oct. 3

Snorkeling in the crystal-blue Pacific waters off Midway Island. Check. Strolling through the enigmatic columns of Stonehenge. Check. Visiting the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica, the pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China. Check, check and check.

It turns out that traveling the globe on Air Force One can do wonders for your tourism bucket list.

President Obama has spent most of his travel time the past eight years on official duties: countless fund-raisers, state visits to foreign capitals, pep rallies with American troops, policy announcements and never-ending summit meetings in hotel ballrooms the world over.

But maybe more than any of his predecessors, Mr. Obama has also seized the opportunity to become the ultimate tourist, methodically setting aside time to marvel at the world’s most spectacular sights, seemingly soaking up every experience. (Want proof? Watch the episode of “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” in which the president joins the host in eating some salmon already munched on by a bear.)

“It’s a Jeffersonian impulse. He’s intellectually curious,” said Jon Meacham, a presidential historian, who compared Mr. Obama’s penchant for sightseeing to Thomas Jefferson’s travels through France from 1784 to 1789, though that was before Jefferson became president.

“He’s trying to do something that’s incredibly difficult,” Mr. Meacham said of Mr. Obama. “He’s trying to replenish his intellectual capital in a job that really just demands expenditure of that resource.”

Not all presidents are eager tourists. President George W. Bush was impatient when it came to seeing the sights. In 2002, Mr. Bush spent only 30 minutes at the Great Wall of China. It took him the same amount of time to visit the National Archives of Canada, where he gazed at portraits of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. One White House aide told a reporter in 2004 that Mr. Bush liked a clean, tight schedule.

President Bill Clinton was by all accounts more willing to squeeze in tourist stops, even if it meant late-night visits before early-morning departures. On a visit to Madrid, Mr. Clinton toured the Prado, Spain’s national art museum, at 11 p.m.

President George Bush was well traveled while in office but less of a tourist than Mr. Obama, said Mr. Meacham, who recently finished a biography of the senior Mr. Bush. If he had some free time, “he was going to set up a game of wallyball at Camp David,” Mr. Meacham said. “He would order up spur-of-the-moment horseshoe tournaments.”

Aides of Mr. Obama’s say he has been relentless in urging them to schedule stops in places that give him a chance to do some sightseeing. In Rome to meet the new pope in 2014, Mr. Obama also took a private guided tour through the Colosseum. After four days of Mideast peace negotiations in 2013, the president played tourist at Petra in Jordan, viewing the 2,000-year-old ruins carved into sandstone cliffs.

And in 2014, at the end of a three-day trip to Estonia and a NATO summit meeting in Wales, Mr. Obama hopped in a motorcade for a short drive to the monoliths at Stonehenge, where he had a leisurely walk. He declared the site “spectacular” and “a special place” before telling reporters, “Knocked it off the bucket list!”

Mr. Obama’s travels — along with his frequent golf outings and summertime visits to Martha’s Vineyard — have generated some criticism, especially from Republicans who question the value of the trips and the cost to taxpayers.

Judicial Watch
, a conservative watchdog group, has used Freedom of Information requests and lawsuits to try to get information about the cost of the president’s travel. The group claims that Mr. Obama’s travel, official and personal, has cost taxpayers about $80 million.

Of course, the exact cost of the president’s sightseeing is unknowable because it is mixed in with the overall efforts required to protect and support the American leader no matter where on the globe he finds himself. The infrastructure of the modern presidency always accompanies the Oval Office occupant, whether he or she is on official duties or vacation.

The president’s aides point out that previous presidents have always traveled with the same security and administrative needs. And they insist that most of Mr. Obama’s personal tourism serves important diplomatic purposes. Eating in a noodle shop in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain for his CNN program, they say, helped deliver the president’s hope for a deeper relationship between the people of the two nations. And the Obamas’ dinner date in a restaurant in Cuba helped cement the image of a new kind of relationship between Washington and Havana, two longtime adversaries.

“These moments allow the president to highlight issues he cares about by experiencing them firsthand,” said Liz Allen, the deputy White House communications director. “Seeing a melting glacier in Alaska or walking the trails of our national parks really drives home the impact of climate change and importance of conserving our lands and waters.”

“And when traveling overseas,” she added, “getting off the beaten path to visit a cultural landmark further deepens ties in that country.”

The demands of the presidency sometimes get in the way of Mr. Obama’s sightseeing. The president skipped a planned stop at the Taj Mahal after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in early 2015 forced him to cut short a visit to India. Despite taking several trips to Southeast Asia, Mr. Obama has never been able to persuade his handlers to get him to Angkor Wat, a complex of magnificent temples in Cambodia.

“The president was quite disappointed to not have an opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal on his last visit to India,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said after the schedule change in India. “I wish I could promise — I think the president wishes I could promise — that he would have an opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal before the end of his presidency, but I’m not sure that will happen.”

And one of the biggest boxes on his tourism list is likely to remain unchecked during the remainder of his presidency: zipping across the frozen tundra of Antarctica, on a snowmobile that might be called Snow Force One. Top aides say he has been wanting to visit for years, but no trip there is on the schedule.

Still, there is no question that the presidency has given Mr. Obama extraordinary access to people, places and experiences that most others do not have.

“Jefferson had this incredible sense of curiosity. He wanted to be a kind of conveyor belt of culture,” Mr. Meacham said. “He saw tourism as, I suspect, the way the president does: widening the aperture of experience and learning as much as possible.”

To read this entire article online, go to:®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Politics&pgtype=article


Direct flights have begun between Huntsville and New Orleans

New GLO Airlines route to open new opportunities for Madison County tourism

Madison County could soon see an influx of New Orleans visitors, thanks to

the beginning of a new direct flight route between Huntsville and New Orleans, Louisiana. GLO

Airlines, the carrier for the new route, is based at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans

International Airport (MSY) and began offering direct service to the Huntsville International

Airport (HSV) on Friday, September 30. Faster, more direct access from New Orleans to the

Huntsville area creates an opportunity to increase travel and tourism to Madison County – an

already booming business, according to statistics from a 2015 report from the Alabama Tourism


The flights will be offered on a tri-weekly basis on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and will

not have a round-trip requirement. Travelers coming in from the New Orleans area will depart

from MSY at 1 p.m. and arrive in Huntsville at 2:45 p.m., reducing the travel time from over six

hours (when driving) to under two hours.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our community to a new market of visitors,” says

Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau

(CVB). “Huntsville has a very unique experience to offer to this particular audience, especially

with our assortment of outdoor resources. From our outstanding mountain landscapes, to our

hiking and biking trails, to our greenspaces and nature preserves, these travelers will enjoy

activities that are distinctive from the New Orleans atmosphere.”

With the addition of the new route, the Huntsville International Airport will now offer nonstop

service to ten locations.

Fares will be offered at under $200, making the trip to the Rocket City a very cost-effective one, not to mention the fact that New Orleanians will be able to see three of the top 10 attractions in the entire state of Alabama during their stay. “GLO is very excited to begin non-stop air service between New Orleans and Huntsville. This quick, comfortable flight will accommodate both the weekend traveler and those looking for an efficient way to travel from the Crescent City to the Rocket City for business,” said Trey Fayard, GLO’s Founder and CEO. “We’re looking forward to bringing New Orleanians to Huntsville to experience all the Tennessee Valley has to offer, including the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, amazing local cuisine, boating on the Tennessee River or teeing off on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.”

Along with the opportunity to bring in more leisure and business travelers to the area comes the

potential for greater media exposure for Madison County. Radio, outdoor, and social media

advertising campaigns began in the months prior to the inaugural flight promoting Huntsville as

a new direct service destination from New Orleans. GLO Airlines also maintains its own blog, in

which Huntsville has been featured.

“Huntsville is fortunate to host a great variety of journalists, travel bloggers, and other media

personalities throughout the year, and we anticipate garnering even more coverage in the New

Orleans area as travel media representatives take advantage of this new flight,” says Charles

Winters, Executive Vice President and Vice President of Marketing for the CVB.

For more information, visit the official GLO Airlines website, or contact Kristen Pepper at or 256-551-2294.


State parks attract migrating birds and the tourists who track them

By Guest Voices – Suzanne Langley,, Sept. 28

Suzanne Langley is executive director for Birmingham Audubon Society, a 70-year-old nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of birds and habitat throughout Alabama

Fall means football for many Alabamians. There’s another recreation, however, that makes Alabama the place to be in September and October.

Approximately 600,000 resident birdwatchers and birders, plus more visiting the state, will be following hundreds of species traveling through Alabama on their way to South and Central America for the winter.

This time of year, birders track weather forecasts for conditions favorable to movement of warblers, flycatchers, vireos, buntings, and many other species passing through Alabama for just a short time. This is also the season when birdwatchers are loading feeders in hopes of attracting migrating visitors to their backyards. Birdwatchers buying seed and suet together with birders purchasing equipment and paying for travel spend more money on their recreation than any other group excluding hunters.

From the migrating bird’s eye view, the 48,000 acres of land and water in Alabama’s state parks offer habitat—and food-rich landscapes important to their journey south. Email alerts began within the past few weeks as migrating songbirds arrived in Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham and other large tracts of undeveloped land. If it’s not raining, you’re likely to see someone wearing binoculars in any of our state parks over the next several weeks as they try to add new birds to their life list.

Because we live in such a biodiverse state, we’re fortunate that some migrating birds stay in Alabama for the winter along with our resident or year-round birds. If you’ve never visited Lake Guntersville Park to see bald eagles soaring overhead on a brisk winter morning, add it to your bucket list. If you’ve never watched a wobbly juvenile osprey atop a five-foot-wide nest, call the Gulf State Park Nature Center for the nature walk schedule. And, if you’ve never sat on top of one of the magnificent rock formations in Desoto State Park to listen to rustling leaves and pileated woodpeckers in the distance, make your reservation now.

We’re lucky to have state parks located near where we live, work and play, but also in differing habitats important to birds and other wildlife. The land and water we share with wildlife in Alabama’s parks are a great illustration of the important connection between conservation and recreation.

Birders are among the four to five million users who pay fees each year that provide 80 percent of the funding needed to operate Alabama state parks. This funding should continue to be dedicated to our parks ensuring our access to recreation and continued investment in conservation. Amendment 2 will ensure that the money earned by state parks is used to operate state parks.

On Election Day, I’ll be taking the sidewalk into my neighborhood community center but in my mind I’ll be walking my favorite state park trail as I vote yes for Amendment 2. A word of warning to anyone that may be following me—I’ll be looking for red-headed woodpeckers and nuthatches as I enter the building. Just ignore me and walk around. Or join me. We’ll have plenty of time before the polling place closes.

To read this article online, go to:


The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddler’s Convention celebrates 50 years

“The Fiddler’s Convention is a time-honored, cherished tradition that has blossomed into the perfect opportunity to spend a weekend in Athens. The entire city comes alive with the flavescent leaves and sounds of bluegrass and it is a wonderful time to kick off the fall season,” says Teresa Todd, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Director. “We are very proud of how much the Fiddler’s Convention has grown and to be able to share its rich history with these notable authorities on all things travel is a real privilege.”

The convention has historically attracted more than 15,000 people for the Friday and Saturday competitions, with more than 200 musicians participating. There are 20 different categories, including several fiddle and guitar categories, harmonica, mandolin, bluegrass banjo, dobro, dulcimer, old time singing, banjo, and buck dancing.

The 50th anniversary Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddler’s Convention will take place Oct. 6-8.

A press tour organized by Verna Gates for the Alabama Tourism Department will attend the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention on the last leg of their North Alabama tour following stops in nearby Huntsville and Muscle Shoals.

For more information on the Convention, please visit


TV celebrity chef to judge at World Food Championships  

The World Food Championships is adding even more “bite” to its roster of TV celebrity chefs for the 5th Anniversary in Orange Beach, Alabama. The latest addition is Jay Ducote, a notable and experienced food TV competitor and Louisiana-based Chef. 

Ducote spends most of his time as a food and beverage writer, blogger, and radio host for his trademark media company, Bite and Booze. But this radio star isn’t camera shy, as he has appeared on TV cooking shows on a variety of networks including Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, FOX, and Destination America.

Most notable in Ducote’s TV career, he finished runner-up on Season 11 of “Food Network Star” and had a pilot for his show “Deep Fried America” air on Travel Channel. Ducote was also named one of the top 100 amateur chefs in America by FOX’s MasterChef.

“With WFC moving to the beach, we’re anticipating a deep-dive competition like never before. We have more competitors than ever, the best sponsors and the best food pantry ever. As a result, we know we’re going to see some of the best dishes ever presented at WFC,” commented Mike McCloud, CEO of World Food Championships.

“Having judged with Chef Ducote before, I know Jay is going to be an incredible addition to our event. He’s going to be involved in a lot of things, but I know he’s got his eyes peeled for the Seafood Top 10 Finals. So competitors better bring their A game!”

The World Food Championships is the largest competition in food sport, where champions of previous events convene for a chance at winning the ultimate food title and a share of $300,000.

The World Food Championships will be held at The Wharf in Orange Beach Nov. 9–15.


USA Today Reader’s Choice awards best covered bridge

The earliest documented covered bridge in the U.S. was built in 1805 in Philadelphia. These structures quickly became popular as a way to prolong the lifespan of a bridge, and at one point, there were as many as 12,000 in the country.

By the 1950s, when the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges was formed, that number had dropped to under 1,500.

We asked a panel of covered bridge experts, as well as our network of Local Experts, to nominate 20 exemplary historic bridges for the category of Best Covered Bridge.  For the past four weeks our readers have been voting daily. 

Horton Mill Bridge in Oneonta, Alabama is No. 4 on the list.

Built in 1935, the Horton Mill Bridge is one of the nation’s highest, crossing 70 feet above Alabama’s Black Warrior River. The two-span, 220-foot Town lattice truss bridge was the first covered bridge in the Southeast to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

To read this entire article online and see the complete list of winners, go to:


Openings for Tourism Promotional Representatives

The Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) is seeking applicants for Tourism Promotional Representatives in our Welcome Centers.  ATD Personnel Director Lori Syck urges people from various hospitality segments to apply, “Our goal is to build a qualified applicant pool for vacancies in the eight Alabama Welcome Centers. These positions are front line and we are especially interested in people with experience in hotel, airline, food service, CVB’s, attractions and related tourism fields.”

To apply go to or for more information call Debbie Wilson at the Alabama Tourism Department at 334-353-4516.


2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat

Registration continues for the 2016 Welcome Center Employees Educational Retreat at the Sheraton in downtown Birmingham.  The event includes a new format.  Welcome Center employees will engage in a speed dating set up similar to National Tour Association and Travel South.  Industry partners will be stationary and get one on one time with each center and their employees. 

Dates for the retreat are Nov. 13-15.  

For registration forms, schedule of events and hotel information contact Patti Culp at: OR 334-271-0050.  

Sponsorships are still available. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to showcase your community with the devoted staff members who welcome our visitors to Sweet Home Alabama. 


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Oct. 5                                      Alabama Tourism Workshop                          Montgomery

Oct. 24 – 25                            AL-TN-MS Rural Tourism Conference         Columbus, MS

Nov. 13 – 15                           Welcome Center Retreat                                Birmingham



Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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Alabama Tourism Department