Tourism Tuesdays April 18, 2017

Travelers spent $13.4 billion in Alabama last year

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution features series of travel articles on Alabama

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument celebrated, sign unveiled during ceremony

New summer travel destinations across Alabama

More than 1,500 take part in April Walking Tours the past three Saturdays

Alabama Tourism Department workshop attracts participants from across the state

Alabama’s richest person donates $12 million to Auburn for culinary science center

World Food Championships announce Alabama “Cook Your Way to the Beach” recipe contest

Welcome Center tourism and travel week celebrations scheduled

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Travelers spent $13.4 billion in Alabama last year

More than 25 million travelers spent $13.4 billion and were responsible for 179,507 jobs last year in the state, according to a report conducted for the Alabama Tourism Department. That figure represents a 5.4% increase in traveler spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation.

“The tourism numbers for 2016 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 doubled over the previous 14 years.”

Without the dollars collected by the tourism industry each household in the state would end up paying $444 in additional taxes, according to the Auburn University Montgomery report by economist Dr. Keivan Deravi.

The five counties in which tourists spent the most are: Baldwin County with $4.2 billion in travel-related spending, Jefferson County with $1.9 billion, Madison County with $1.2 billion, Mobile County with $1.1 billion and Montgomery County with $814 million.

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

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution features series of travel articles on Alabama

Editors note:  H.M. Cauley with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a series of five travel articles on Alabama travel destinations.  Cauley worked with Alabama Tourism Department staff members Brian Jones, Tommy Cauthen and Rick Harmon on gathering information and photos for the articles. Two of the articles will be featured this week and the other three will be featured in next week’s newsletter.  To view all of the articles please see 

“In Alabama trip, find adventure, tranquility, history or all of it”

 (first in the AJC series) from the article by H.M. Cauley in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

1/Dauphin Island

The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico surround this 14-mile barrier island about 40 miles south of Mobile, considered one of the best places around to watch the sun sink below the horizon. The island capitalizes on that view, hosting events such as classic car cruise-ins and concerts in the fading light. Pile onto a ferryboat in Mobile for the 40-minute trip across the bay, or drive over the three-mile bridge to get to the parks, beaches, trails and plenty of spots to commune with nature.

Visitors can explore the native species at the island’s bird sanctuary and the Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (102 Bienville Blvd., 251-861-7500, Several waterways are ideal for kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. Boat launches, picnic areas, playgrounds and 151 camp sites are available, along with cabins and hotels. The island is home to several restaurants noted for local seafood and the stunning sunsets over the bay. It also has a claim to history as the site of Fort Gaines, where in the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay the intrepid Admiral Farragut proclaimed, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Tours of the fort pass through a museum, blacksmith’s shop, kitchens, tunnels and original cannons, which are fired during demonstrations. (51 Bienville Blvd. 251-861-6992, 109 Bienville Blvd., Dauphin Island.

2/ Wet and Wild Adventures

If riding the rapids, kayaking calmly or paddle boarding through an undisturbed natural area is high on your to-do list, you’ll find all three along Alabama’s extensive waterways. Discover countless adventures along the Scenic River Trail, billed as the longest of its kind in any state, covering more than 5,000 miles across 43 waterways. Grab a canoe, kayak, raft, powerboat or paddle board and explore the Alabama, Coosa, Tensaw, Tennessee and Cahaba rivers, as well as Terrapin, Hatchett and Weogufka creeks. Along the way, adventurers will find outfitters, campsites, organized tours and events to make the journey memorable. 799 Ashley Drive, Madison. 256-426-0558,

The Coosa Outdoor Center in Wetumpka, about 20 miles northeast of Montgomery, rents canoes and kayaks from April through October for leisurely paddling along the Coosa River, a 280-mile stretch that branches off the Alabama. 172 River Rd, Wetumpka. 334-201-5510,

Not all of the waterways are calm and serene. The white water along the Chattahoochee River near Phenix City features several difficult and and 10 smaller rapids that are part of one of the longest urban, white-water rafting courses around. The experts at Whitewater Express will get you outfitted, lead a tour and supply insider tips on where to see nature up close. 1400 3rd St., Phenix City. 334-298-9521,

3/ Dolphins at Sunset Kayak Tour

Pack a snack, wear your comfy clothes and prepare to get close to a porpoise. The dolphin kayak excursion run year-round by Wild Native Tours takes you onto the waters off Gulf Shores for a three-hour trek to meet the critters in their home waters. The $65 cost includes a kayak, life jackets, paddles, water, gear transport and a guide to point out the highlights. The company also offers a 1.5-hour, nature trip along back waterways, a two-hour moonlight paddle and a three-hour spin around the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, home to sea turtles, beach mice and more than 360 varieties of birds. Meet at 4159 County Rd. 6, Gulf Shores. 251-259-8531,

4/ Cathedral Caverns State Park

Opened in 2000, this natural wonder, once dubbed the “bat cave,” boasts one of the biggest openings, 126 feet wide and 25 feet high. It’s also home to “Goliath,” a stalagmite 45 feet high and 243 feet around, among thousands of similar formations in the “stalagmite forest,” an especially cool place to visit in the summer when the cave’s temperature is a steady 60 degrees. Guided, 90-minute tours are offered, and the cave is wheelchair accessible. The 443-acre park about 25 miles east of Huntsville also features back-country camping sites and a gemstone mining, center. 637 Cave Road, Woodville. 256-728-8193,

5/ Hotel Finial

Like your adventures more on the eerie side? Reserve one of the five suites or 56 guest rooms in the Hotel Finial in Anniston, where a stay might include an unexpected encounter with the supernatural. Built in 1888 as a private home, the ornate Victorian structure was renovated and reopened as a hotel last year. Along with splendid wraparound porches, turrets, high-ceilinged rooms, intricate moldings and original fireplaces, it has a few invisible guests whose footsteps have been heard in the kitchen and dining room. Beyond ghost hunting, the hotel offers an outdoor pool, a full bar and gourmet breakfast buffets. You can arrange to play a few rounds of golf at the nearby Anniston Country or Cider Ridge golf clubs. 1600 Quintard Ave., Anniston. 256-236-0503,

Even if you don’t have a supernatural encounter, a visit to the hotel can provide other adventurous opportunities. Check out Cheaha State Park in the Talladega National Forest where the state’s highest peak, 2,407 feet, offers majestic views of the area. Hike along the Cheaha and Pinhoti trails that meander through woodlands and by waterfalls. 19644 Hwy. 281, Delta. 256-488-5111,

Anniston is also fewer than 20 miles from the Talladega Superspeedway, formerly the Alabama International Motor Speedway, where NASCAR drivers race. Next up May 7 is the Talladega 500. 3366 Speedway Blvd., Lincoln. 877-462-3342,

For the complete article please see

“History in Alabama: Museums tell stories of the past”

(second in the AJC series) from the article by H.M. Cauley in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

1/Museum of Alabama

Tucked into the Alabama Department of Archives and History, this museum tells the almost 200-year history of the state through photos, documents, and artifacts. Videos showcase topics from the cotton plantations, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and more. Stroll across the street to the state capitol (600 Dexter Avenue, 334-242-7100, where the remnants of the Jim Crow era are carved above the water fountains. The Confederacy was born in the senate chamber, and a star on the west portico marks the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president. If you saw the movie “Selma,” you’ll recognize the capitol steps as the place where the freedom marchers arrived and heard Dr. Martin Luther King,, Jr., address the crowd. 524 Washington Avenue, Montgomery 334-242-4435,

2/ Gaineswood, Demopolis

What started in 1821 as a cabin was expanded and refined into a Greek Revival mansion that took more than 40 years to build. Constructed largely by slave laborers in seven sections, the elegant home known as Gaineswood was the showplace of a thriving cotton plantation by the time of the Civil War. After changing hands several times, the home was purchased by the state in 1966 and opened as a museum five years later. Visitors today can view the stunning domed ceilings, elaborate moldings and plasterwork, and many original furnishings. Gardens, a gazebo and picnic area are part of the five-acre site. 805 S. Cedar Avenue, Demopolis. 334-289-4846,

3/ Dexter Parsonage Museum

This 1912 home was the pastor’s residence for the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church (454 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery; 334-263-3970), where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pastor from 1954 to 1960. In 2003, the white-frame structure with nine rooms was renovated, and today it looks much as it did when King lived there. Some of the furnishings were used by the family. An adjacent visitors center features photographs of the pastors who lived there, dozens from 1920 through 1992. The church itself dates to 1879 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 309 S. Jackson St., Montgomery. 334-261-3270,

For the complete article please see

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument celebrated, sign unveiled during ceremony

From the article by Erin Edgemon on

The sign designating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument was unveiled Saturday afternoon during a dedication ceremony.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell said the dedication was about thanking civil rights leaders for their sacrifice. He said it is also about showing the younger generation that they can make change.

In one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama in January signed a proclamation designating the Birmingham Civil Rights District as a national monument.

The national monument includes portions of the Historic Birmingham Civil Rights District, including the A.G. Gaston Motel, the neighboring Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, the Colored Masonic Temple, St. Paul United Methodist Church and portions of the 4th Avenue Business District.

Bell said the Gaston Motel, which is being restored, is where Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders planned the march on Washington and the Selma-to-Montgomery March. 

Reginald Tiller is the acting superintendent of the national monument. The Tennessee native, who has worked for the National Park Service in Colorado, Missouri, Ohio and Georgia, officially starts his post in Birmingham on Monday. His office is in the Civil Rights Institute.  

During his tenure with the Park Service, Tiller said he has met people from all over the world who visited National Parks to learn more about the civil rights movement.

“We can read textbooks and learn about different things, but I still think American citizens learn best when they go see, touch and feel the history that the National Park Service is preserving for future generations,” Tiller said, in a city of Birmingham video.

This summer, he said, the Park Service will begin meeting with community stakeholders and residents to develop a plan for the park moving forward.

Already visitors can receive a National Park stamp when they visit the bookstore inside the Civil Rights Institute.

Saturday’s dedication included words from General Charles C. Krulak, retired commandant of the Marine Corps and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Carolyn McKinstry, 16th Street Church bombing survivor; Odessa Woolfolk, founding board chair of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham City Councilor Sheila Tyson; 16th Street Baptist Church Pastor Arthur Price, Bert Frost, acting deputy director of National Park Service; and others.

City Councilor Jay Roberson read the presidential proclamation declaring the Civil Rights District a national monument.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, introduced legislation in 2016 in an attempt to have the Civil Rights District declared a national park. Sewell, who wasn’t in attendance on Saturday issued this statement:

“Birmingham was the epicenter of America’s civil rights movement, and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument recognizes the remarkable contributions made by the foot soldiers and leaders of the movement. We can never repay the debts we owe to those who fought, bled, and died to secure the blessings of liberty, equality, and justice for all Americans during the struggle for civil and voting rights. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will help preserve their stories for future generations. I am thrilled at the investments the National Park Service is making in Birmingham as part of the national commitment to protecting the legacy of our nation’s civil rights heroes.”

The National Park Service is partnering with the city of Birmingham to restore the A.G. Gaston Motel to its appearance during the Birmingham campaign of 1963. It will be open to visitors once the restoration is complete. The restoration work has begun, city officials said.

Carol Jenkins, niece of A.G. Gaston, thanked the city and Park Service for honoring her uncle’s work.

“This was their life’s work,” she said. “Birmingham was their life’s work.”

For the complete article please see

New summer travel destinations across Alabama

A $500 million theme park being built near the beach, a national monument for civil rights in Birmingham and the reopening of a legendary recording studio in the Shoals are just a few of the new summer travel destinations in Alabama. 

Several well-known attractions in the state have new additions including a $16 million facility at the Huntsville Botanical Garden, an exhibit honoring the centennial of WWI at the USS Alabama and “tiny house” cabins built at Roland Cooper State Park.

The summer tourism season is good for the state’s economy with families spending money in hotels, gas stations, shops and restaurants across the state.  Tourism is big business in Alabama with more than 26 million people visiting the state annually and spending more than $13 billion, state tourism officials said.  

The Alabama Tourism Department suggests the following destinations for summer vacation trips.  For a complete destination listing see


OWA, a 520-acre family friendly tourist destination just seven miles from Alabama’s popular Gulf Coast beaches, is scheduled to open mid-summer in Foley.

The $500-million-plus complex being built by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians will initially include a 14-acre theme park with more than 20 rides and four roller coasters, a 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel and a wide selection of restaurant and shopping opportunities.

Future plans call for a waterpark, additional hotels, a condominium complex and a resort level RV park. The complex is adjacent to the city of Foley’s $40 million, sports-tourism complex, which features 16 state-of-the-art outdoor fields and a 90,000-square foot indoor events center.  The outdoor fields are fully operational now, and the indoor events center is slated to open this summer.

Birmingham Civil Rights District designated national monument

Before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama designated the Birmingham Civil Rights District as a National Monument.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Monument includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, where the death of four young girls during a 1963 white supremacist bombing galvanized the nation; Kelly Ingram Park, where protesters faced down police dogs and water hoses; The Gaston Hotel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy stayed in the spring of 1963.  Also within the monument site are St. Paul United Methodist Church, portions of the 4th Avenue Historic District and The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

The newly restored Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, where the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon recorded major hits in the late sixties and seventies, was selected as the Alabama Tourism Department’s attraction of the year for 2017.

The studio, reopening in January after being closed for decades, benefitted from nearly a million-dollar-gift from Beats Electronics producer Dr Dre who was inspired by the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals.

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, aka the Swampers, opened the studio in 1969. Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett dubbed the building “Muscle Shoals Sound” and attracted some of the biggest names in the business. The Rolling Stones recorded “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” for their “Sticky Fingers” album at the studio. The Staple Singers cut “I’ll Take You There” and the studio rhythm section backed Bob Seger on “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll.”  Other artists who recorded there included Cher, Steve Winwood, Linda Rondstadt, Rod Stewart and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Restored to the way it looked in the early ‘70’s, the non-profit studio is open for daytime tours and nighttime recording sessions.

Huntsville Botanical Garden

The Huntsville Botanical Garden opened a new $16 million venue in March. The new 30,000-square foot facility includes a welcome center, cafe, restaurant and three event areas. The spacious new lobby provides a gateway to the 112-acre garden and its floral collections, woodland paths, grassy meadows, aquatic garden and a two-acre children’s garden. The Huntsville Botanical Garden also features the nation’s largest seasonal butterfly house and nature center.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines began four and five day cruises from Mobile to the Western Caribbean late last year.  The cruises are on the 2,056 passenger Carnival Fantasy.  The four-day cruise visits Cozumel, Mexico while the five-day cruise adds additional stops on the Yucatan peninsula at Progreso, Mexico. The cruise terminal is in downtown Mobile with easy access to hotels, restaurants and attractions.  Mobile is home to the USS Alabama, Bellingrath Gardens and Home and the GulfQuest Maritime Museum.

USS Alabama

An exhibit honoring the centennial anniversary of WWI opened in March in the Aircraft Pavilion.  The new exhibit showcases uniforms from all major fighting forces, historical artifacts, and features a diorama of a wartime trench. At Battleship Memorial Park visitors can explore the mighty USS Alabama, winner of nine battle stars in World War II.  The battleship is more than two football fields long and had a crew of 2,500. Also on display is the Mach 3 A-12 Blackbird super-secret spy plane, the B-52 stratofortress Calamity Jane, the submarine USS Drum, an original plane that was used by the Tuskegee Airmen, plus 22 other aircraft and weaponry from all branches of the military.

Mardi Gras Park

Mobile’s new Mardi Gras Park showcases the fact that the city is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States and the park is centrally located on a popular Mardi Gras parade route next to the History Museum of Mobile.

The park features a collection of brightly colored statues representing aspects of Mobile’s Mardi Gras tradition: On the Church Street side, a pair of Carnival royalty represent past Mobile Carnival Association kings and queens; on the Government Street side, another pair represent the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association. Male and female jesters flank the main entrance on the Royal Street side, and on the corners stand a trumpeter, representing the musical side of Mardi Gras, and Chief Slacabamorinico, the alter ego used by Joe Cain when he restarted Carnival after the Civil War.

“Tiny House” stays at Roland Cooper State Park

Roland Cooper State Park near Camden has four, new “tiny house” cabins. The 408 square foot cabins, sleep 4-6 people and rent for $98.00 per day with discounts for weekly and monthly rental. There are two floor plans available. Three of the cabins have two bedrooms and sleep six people. There is a master bedroom with a queen bed. The other bedroom has two sets of bunks and sleeps four people.

All the cabins have a full kitchen with a gas range, microwave oven, coffee maker and fridge with an ice maker. The exterior of the “tiny house” cabins are a composite material with a metal roof. There is a deck available to sit outside and enjoy the views. One of the units has a beautiful lake view from its deck.   

Pizitz Building Food Development

The Pizitz Food hall opened in mid-February on the ground floor of the newly restored Pizitz building in downtown Birmingham. The food hall features 12 market stalls with international dishes, two full-service restaurants, The Louis bar and outdoor seating. In addition to permanent establishments, one market stall will be dedicated to a restaurant incubator space, where up-and-coming chefs can showcase culinary trends.  The New York Times has described the Pizitz Food Hall as “a foodie’s heaven.”

Dash of the Unexpected GeoTour

Dash of the Unexpected GeoTour was launched by the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association in March and features 31 geocaches hidden throughout North Alabama. Designed to attract both experienced and new geocachers, Dash of the Unexpected GeoTour features attractions, historic sites and unique, locally owned places. Locations include Houston Jail, Horton Mill Bridge, Miracle Pottery, Carnegie Library, Princess Theatre, Coon Dog Cemetery, Joe Wheeler State Park, LaGrange Cemetery and Goat Island Brewing.  Of the 31 locations, 13 are existing caches and 18 are new caches.

Dash of the Unexpected GeoTour has its own page on, which lists the participating geocaches. Geocachers use a GPS device or the Geocaching app on their smartphone to navigate to a set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find a hidden geocache container. Each cache will contain a point value that participants will record in a passport.

More than 1,500 take part in April Walking Tours the past three Saturdays

More than 1,500 people across the state have taken part in the April Walking Tours this month. Two Saturdays remain in this year’s walking tour program. While numbers are still being reported, so far some of the largest walking tour totals were; Florence, 216; Fairhope, 195; Huntsville, 170; Athens, 141; Decatur, 93; Tuscumbia, 70; Madison, 61; Shelby, 60; Sheffield, 60; Foley, 56; Birmingham, 56; Mooresville, 52. 

A variety of community leaders lead 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 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Towns and starting places for the April Walking Tours are: Athens, Athens Visitor Center; Attalla, Gazebo at 4th St. and 5th Ave.; Bayou La Batre, Mariner Park; Birmingham, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Courtland, Courtland Heritage Museum; Cullman, Cullman County Museum; Daleville, Chamber of Commerce; Decatur, Old State Bank Building; Elba, Chamber of Commerce; Enterprise, The Rawls Hotel; Eutaw, Prairie Avenue; Fairhope, Fairhope Welcome Center; Florence, various locations; Foley, Welcome Center.

Huntsville, Confectionary Shop at Constitution Village (April 1 & 8 only); Livingston, McConnell Field on University of West Alabama campus; Madison, Madison Roundhouse (April 15 & 22 only); Mobile, Welcome Center at The History Museum of Mobile; Montgomery; Montgomery Area Visitor Center; Mooresville, Post Office; Moulton, Lawrence County Archives; Pell City, City Hall; Prattville, Prattaugan Museum; Selma, Selma-Dallas County Library; Sheffield, Sheffield Municipal Building; Shelby, Iron Works Park; Troy, Pike County Chamber of Commerce; Tuscumbia, ColdWater Bookstore.

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

Alabama Tourism Department workshop attracts participants across the state

The Alabama Tourism Department hosted its semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery last week.  This educational workshop covered the programs and services offered by the state tourism department. Tourism industry members, event organizers and community leaders from across the state attended.

Participants in the workshop included:  Becky Alexander-certified tour manager, Veronica Bishop- OWA, Cat Bobo- Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau, Melissa George Bowman- Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Maria Briones- Greater Birmingham CVB, LeQuana Brown- Hampton Inn & Suites, Emily Duncan- Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Nicole Duncan-Townplace Suites at OWA, Sallie Garrison- Eufaula Barbour Co. Chamber of Commerce, Christalan Gearring- Ascent Hospitality/Fairfield Inn & Suites, Cynthia Gillespie-Thomas- Greater Birmingham CVB, Debra Grider- Greater Birmingham CVB.

Brook Harris- Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau, Sherri Jacobi- Town Place Suites at OWA, Patty Kieffer- Visit Mobile, Larsen Lien- OWA, Melinda Laymon-Hampton Inn Hope Hull, Tanya Maloney-City of Heflin Economic Development, Abby Minter- Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, George Reish- Wind Creek Hospitality, Christal D. Richardson- Greater Birmingham CVB, Jennifer Peacock Sanders-Wind Creek Hospitality, Tammy Perry-Cleburne County Chamber, Charlie Schmidt- Ascent Hospitality, Randa Simpson- Florence Lauderdale Tourism, Laura Strickland- Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce, Ashley Thorne- Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, Sheryl Vickery- Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, Roxcell Williams- Ascent Hospitality, Katrina Wright- Eufaula Barbour Co. Chamber of Commerce.

Alabama’s richest person donates $12 million to Auburn for culinary science center

From the article by Kelly Poe on

Alabama’s richest person Jimmy Rane has committed $12 million to Auburn University that will be used to create a new culinary science center. 

Rane is the founder of the lumber business Great Southern Wood Abbeville. Rane is best known as the “Yella Fella” in his popular advertisements.

The Auburn Board of Trustees – of which Rane is a member – approved the naming of the facility of at its April 7 meeting as the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center in honor of Rane’s parents.  

The new center will be adjacent to the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. It will have a restaurant, teaching and demonstration kitchens, a “beverage appreciation center” a terrace and rooftop event space, and a spa. It’ll also have board rooms, hotel rooms, suites and apartments. 

“Not only will the center’s facilities provide our students with unparalleled opportunities for hands-on lessons and demonstrations in culinary arts and luxury accommodations from the best in the industry, but it also will provide guests with an immersion in hospitality that is second to none,” College of Human Sciences Dean June Henton said in a press release.

Forbes magazine listed Rane as richest person in the state last year with an estimated net worth of $610 million. He graduated from Auburn in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration before founded Great Southern Wood Preserving in 1970.

For the complete article please see

World Food Championships announce Alabama “Cook Your Way to the Beach” recipe contest

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is asking fellow CVBs to help spread the word about an Alabama recipe contest being conducted by the World Food Championships, which takes place in Orange Beach in mid-November. They are asking the CVBs to encourage local chefs and home cooks to submit their best original recipe featuring Gulf seafood so that there is a great selection of entries from across the state.

Each winner receives a Golden Ticket to compete in the championships in Orange Beach.

Alabama home cooks and professional chefs have a chance to showcase their favorite Gulf seafood dish on a world stage with the World Food Championships’ (WFC) Alabama “Cook Your Way to the Beach” recipe contest. All recipes must be original, focus on Gulf seafood, not be copied or reproduced from a published cookbook, and the contest is open to Alabama residents only.

Alabama home cooks and professional chefs have a chance to showcase their favorite Gulf seafood dish on a world stage with the World Food Championships’ (WFC) Alabama recipe contest. All recipes must be original, focus on Gulf seafood, not be copied or reproduced from a published cookbook, and the contest is open to Alabama residents only.

“Most competitors who come to the World Food Championships have won some of the biggest and best food competitions across the country,” says Joanie Flynn, vice president of marketing for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism who is helping promote the contest. “For our own Alabama chefs – whether they work in a restaurant or just love to cook at home – to have the chance to go up against people from all around the U.S. and the world is just an exciting opportunity to showcase both our fabulous Gulf seafood and the fantastic culinary talent here in our own state.”

The WFC Alabama recipe contest runs April 21 through May 1, and all recipes must be submitted online via the World Food Championships Facebook page at  (@WorldFoodChampionships on Facebook). Five winners will be chosen by the World Food Championships Ambassador Council via a blind judging process. The top winner will receive a Golden Ticket to compete in the seafood category as well as have entry fees waived and receive a $500 travel stipend. The other four winners will receive a Golden Ticket to compete in the seafood category. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

World Food Championships, the largest food sport event in the world, returns Nov. 8-12 to The Wharf in Orange Beach. This is the annual event’s sixth year and its second on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Last year saw more than 400 competitors – home cooks to highly-acclaimed restaurant chefs – from 48 states and 14 countries battling it out in the world’s largest outdoor kitchen.

For more information on the World Food Championships please see

Welcome Center tourism and travel week celebrations scheduled

The eight state welcome centers will celebrate National Tourism and Travel Week on different dates during the month of May to give tourism industry partners the opportunity to attend several of the events.  The goal of the events is to help kick-off the vacation season and show appreciation to guests stopping at the centers by offering special promotions to local attractions, hotels and restaurants.

The welcome centers and days are: Lanett Welcome Center- May 4, Baldwin Welcome Center- May 9, Houston Welcome Center- May 11, Sumter Welcome Center -May 11, Ardmore Welcome Center- May 18, Cleburne Welcome Center- May 24, DeKalb Welcome Center- May 25, Grand Bay Welcome Center- May 26.  Each celebration will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the date scheduled.

Vacation Guide/Calendar of Events deadline is June 30

The deadline for submitting items for the printed version of the Alabama Tourism Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events is June 30.  Use the Alabama Tourism industry partners website at to enter and manage events/attractions in the database. If you need assistance please contact Pam Smith at 334-353-4541 or email at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Want to know what a stellar partner profile looks like? See Lulu’s Restaurant on the Alabama Travel website here. LuLu’s takes full advantage of location listing features including a succinct description and key details, colorful images, and a wonderful video.

Need to polish up your location listing? Go to today.



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 newsletter please contact Brian Jones at:

Alabama Tourism Department