Tourism Tuesdays August 1, 2017

Alabama The Beautiful: 11 State Parks Win Trip Advisor Awards in 2017

Carnival Cruise Lines extends contract with Mobile

Gulf Coast Ducks tour Mobile like no one else can

Take a walk through The Park at OWA

Barbasol officials happy with crowd attendance in third year, planning for next year

New Huntsville music festival set for former Madison Square site

World’s Longest Yard Sale begins in Gadsden Aug. 3-6

Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports leader talks about supporting local economy

Local restaurants still able to sign-up for Alabama Restaurant Week

Southern Makers event is Aug. 12-13 in Birmingham

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 in Birmingham

Job openings at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

 “Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama The Beautiful: 11 State Parks Win Trip Advisor Awards in 2017

From the article by Jordan LaPorta on

Alabama’s State Parks are now on the national radar thanks to 17 awards given out by the website TripAdvisor. The online travel reservation giant awarded 11 different Alabama parks with honors recognizing their natural beauty and man-made accommodations.

“We’re thrilled that TripAdvisor users love our parks as much as we do,” Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks director, told the Alabama NewsCenter. “Our staff works hard to make sure visitors have first-class experiences enjoying our beautiful state and it’s nice to be recognized.”

While some of the parks on the list are used to recognition, there are several that were recognized for the first time or in new ways. The recognized parks are:

  • Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores: overall park, piers/boardwalks, campground, and trails
  • Lake Guntersville State Park, Guntersville: overall park and lodging
  • Desoto State Park, Fort Payne: overall park, mountains, nature, and wildlife
  • Joe Wheeler State Park, Rogersville: overall park and lodging
  • Cathedral Caverns State Park, Woodville: best parks
  • Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville: best parks
  • Oak Mountain State Park, Oak Mountain: best parks
  • Wind Creek State Park, Alexander City: best parks
  • Cheaha State Park, Delta: best parks
  • Lakepoint State Park, Eufaula: best parks

Chewacla State Park, Auburn: best parks

“Services like TripAdvisor are important to get the word out about our parks to people who love the outdoors, but may have not considered visiting Alabama,” Lein told Alabama NewsCenter. “We have a great track record with repeat visitors, proof that when you come to an Alabama State Park you’ll enjoy your experience. There’s something for everyone at our parks.”

The State of Alabama operates and maintains 22 state parks covering more than 48,000 acres of land and water with 80 to 90 percent of the operating costs covered by visitor fees rather than taxpayer dollars.

For the complete article please see

Carnival Cruise Lines extends contract with Mobile
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson returned from Miami last night with a finalized agreement from Carnival Cruise Line that will extend the Carnival Fantasy’s stay in Mobile through December 2018. Carnival agreed to exercise the first extension which was part of the original agreement Mayor Stimpson negotiated in 2015.  Not only does the new agreement confirm that Carnival will continue to sail from Mobile another year, but it also confirms a modified schedule demonstrating the growing opportunities for sailings from Mobile. The agreement will be placed on the City Council agenda for approval as soon as possible.

Visit Mobile markets the city as an ideal pre-and post-cruise destination by managing an active social media presence (, a Cruisin’ section on ( featuring hotel Park & Cruise packages at area lodging partners and promoting deep attraction discounts for cruisers, as well as developing relationships with travel agents and cruise executives.

For more information on the Carnival Cruise Line agreement please see

Gulf Coast Ducks tour Mobile like no one else can
From the article by Michael Dumas on

When Scott Tindle and his business partners, brothers Matt and Grant Zarzour, were contemplating their next venture, they sought to solve one question.

How to connect downtown Mobile to the waterfront? Specifically, to the Mobile River and north Mobile Bay. The answer would be the key to the evolution of Azalea City tourism, they thought.

“That’s really hard to do. There’s no access from the bay to downtown,” Tindle said. And the solution that the partners – who make up the firm Activation Management – came up with was this: “A duck would be a perfect way to do that.”

The “duck” in question was an amphibious vehicle straight off the beaches of World War II Normandy, classified as the DUKW. More than 70 years ago, those landing craft delivered soldiers into battle and over the last decade or so, entrepreneurs in major cities such as Boston and Philadelphia have repurposed the DUKWs into what are known as “stretch ducks” to facilitate tours.

And that’s exactly what Tindle and the Zarzours did in 2016 with their company, Gulf Coast Ducks.

There are currently three ducks in operation, running as many as six tours a day out of USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. At scheduled times, visitors board the ducks, which have the feel of an airy, comfortable bus. From there, the captain and tour guide take their guests on a 70-minute excursion which includes jokes, historical anecdotes and three “splashes,” which are when the rolling ducks become tour boats by entering either the Mobile River or the bay.

Water entry and exit is exhilarating, offering an adventure few have ever experienced. To see the city from the river is one thing, but to roll right up the banks and onto downtown streets is another. On the water, the tour skirts the warships docked in front of Austal USA’s riverfront buildings and includes a unique view of the USS Alabama from the bay.

On land, the tour visits several downtown landmarks and more than a few hidden gems, replete with colorful, historical context.

‘Different standard’

“We’re going to trade your time for fun,” Tindle said. And while certainly unconventional to the tourist – local or otherwise – he said the formula for a successful tour is equal parts calculation, preparation and intuition.

The business partners sought to rely on their extensive communal knowledge to dial in the right recipe. Tindle is the former executive director of the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds, and led its rebranding into The Grounds, which became profitable under his tenure for the first time in years.

Much of the Gulf Coast Ducks experience is rooted in philosophies and attractions developed by Walt Disney. A veteran of Disney Institute business training, Tindle said he’s always admired Disney’s concept of “edutainment,” blending learing and pleasure. Gulf Coast Ducks employees go through paid training before they’re ever allowed on a duck. And Tindle, who wrote the original script and has personally given more than 500 duck tours, said, “Until you’ve given 100 tours, I have a different standard for you.”

Part of that standard includes each tour guide curating his or her own tour. A majority of the tour guides are local college students, Tindle said, and he gets a lot of joy watching them use his script as a departure point to developing their own experience.

“We select for attitude, train for aptitude,” Tindle said.

In fact, the one ride that a duck tour most closely resembles from Disney’s Magic Kingdom is the long-running and relentlessly popular Jungle Cruise.

There, the tour guide’s comedy routine is a bit drier than those experienced on a duck, where the humor is a lot cornier and more accessible.

“We want to give them the greatest tour in America,” Tindle said. “Which means we just have to be the best tour they’ve ever experienced.”

‘Tourism ecosystem’

For the Mobile-area tourism industry to flourish, more than one venture must rise to the top, Tindle said. And though he’s proud of the more than 900 5-star ratings that Gulf Coast Ducks has gotten on Facebook, and countless other positive testimonials, he said the industry needs fresh entrepreneurs willing to take the plunge.

“We want to be a great friend and a great resource to the tourism ecosystem,” Tindle said. “We want to grow the size of the tourism pie, not carve out our own piece.”

He enjoys working with local businesses, and has teamed up with several that appear along the tour route — which stretches from Battleship Parkway nearly to Broad Street. Those businesses offer coupons included with the duck tour ticket.

“We offer a captive audience that really pays attention,” he said. “We’re a 70-minute advertisement for the city of Mobile.”

It helps that there are so many inspiring business owners in the city, he said, and his advice to anyone wanting to develop their own enterprise is to “go out there and keep trying.”

“There’s going to be logistical hurtles to whatever you’re going to do,” Tindle said. “Those are the barriers of entry. But you don’t have to go through the brick wall, go around it and find someone to help you.”

“Creativity is thinking new things; innovation is doing new things.”

When they were preparing Gulf Coast Ducks for launch in 2016, Tindle and the Zarzours realized that there was room for growth. Since Mobilians will take to the streets for almost any event, specialized tours were created, including Haunted Ducks in October, Holiday Ducks at Christmas, Decade Ducks in the spring and Sunset Ducks year-round.

And Tindle and his partners recently launched another venture, the Fort of Colonial Mobile. They took over management of Fort Conde and have developed tours and events celebrating not only the fort’s French inhabitants, but the British and Spanish, as well.

Those nations called it Fort Charlotte and Fort Carlota, respectively.

“This has given me a remarkable appreciation for the people of our city,” Tindle said. “It’s not about the buildings or the institutions, it’s about the people who for years have been trying to turn Mobile into this transformative city.”

“That’s why we’re betting heavy on it.”

For the complete article please see

Take a walk through The Park at OWA
From the article by Julio Diaz in the Pensacola News Journal

The newest attraction on the Gulf Coast is open for business, and I was one of the lucky few who got to check it out before anyone else. If you like rides, family fun and an old-school boardwalk atmosphere, you’re definitely going to want to make the short drive to Foley, Alabama, and The Park at OWA.

OWA is a new resort destination that just opened its first phases. The name translates from Creek Indian to mean “big water.” And water is nearly everywhere you look in The Park at OWA, the 14-acre amusement park that represents the destination’s first major attraction.

Water features dot the length of the park, with pools and fountains bringing a relaxing atmosphere to the park and forming something of an ironic contrast to the facility’s main attraction.

Rollin’ Thunder runs from the back of the park all the way to the front before winding back to its origination point. Sailing along bright blue tracks at more than 55 miles per hour, the nine-rider roller coaster dominates the park’s landscape, soaring over and splashing through the park’s water features as it loops, twists and drops across the landscape. The coaster is undeniably The Park at OWA’s main attraction, and the long lines seen during the park’s media event more than bore that out.

But Rollin’ Thunder is just one of more than 20 rides that make up the amusement park’s offerings. The Park at OWA has a classic boardwalk-style feel, hearkening back with carnival-style rides, games, performers and more.

Kiddie and family friendly rides dominate one side of the park, so if you’re visiting with the kids, head to the right as you enter.  The rides for the kiddies are near the rear of the part on the right. They are:
Flying Aces, which carries kids up, down and round-and-round on vintage biplanes;

Swingin’ Fun, a swing-set that doesn’t need someone to push and flies higher than the one on your neighborhood playground;

Leap Frog, which bounces kids about on the backs of multi-colored frogs (and wave hello to “Paul,” the big daddy frog in the middle of the ride);

Gully Washer, a not-too-scary drop ride with lots of stops and bounces;

Happy Haulers, a vintage-style truck ride around a turn-of-the-century track;

Zip Zap Race, which lets little ones take the wheel of hot rod racers.
Most of the park’s family friendly rides intended to appeal to all ages are also on the right side of the park as you enter, with the exception of the Flying Carousel, located on the left side near the rear of the park. Your feet don’t touch the floor on this merry-go-round, which ferries its passengers on swings. The other family friendly ride offerings are:
Flutter By, at the rear of the park to the right, lets guests take flight on beautiful butterflies;

AeroZoom, near the mid-point of the park, which seats riders on hang gliders to dart and fly through the air;

Rockin’ Raft, which offers the fun of a gentler whitewater raft trip without the splash;

Tea Time, The Park at OWA’s variation on the ever-popular spinning teacups-style ride;

Southern Express, a smaller-scale roller coaster for all ages with fun twists and turns;

Flying Tigers, which lets you take the stick of a fighter plane and bank and turn as you wish;

Sky Balloons, which puts guests into high-flying “hot air balloons.”

Along with Rollin’ Thunder, The Park at OWA boasts six more rides strictly for the thrill seekers, all on the left side of the park as you enter. They are:

Freedom Flyer, which will take you to the highest point in the park, soaring nearly 100 feet above the crowds on spinning swings;

Wave Rider, which combines elements of roller coasters and spinning rides for a bumpy, twisty journey;

Air Racer, a high-octane flying ride that approximates some of the G-force felt by stunt pilots with dives, loops and weightlessness;

Alabama Wham’a, which tricks riders when they board horizontally, only for the whole ride to turn vertical and spin like a high-speed Ferris wheel;

Twister, which spins 360 degrees horizontally around the axis of an arm that itself spins 360 vertically through the air;

Crazy Mouse, a coaster whose mice cars spin 360 degrees as they travel the tracks.
Rides aren’t all The Park at OWA has to offer. While the neighboring retail and dining complex isn’t yet open, you won’t have to go hungry. Quick service restaurants are at the midpoint of the park’s length on both sides, offering burgers, pizza, chicken sandwiches and more. Food carts also dot the parks landscape, selling hot dogs, tacos, ice cream, snacks, popcorn, shaved ice and even Dippin’ Dots.

Classic boardwalk-style games are offered near the restaurant on the left side of the park, with barkers encouraging attendees to “step right up” and try their hands at the ring toss, Whack-a-Mole, balloon pops and other games of chance for enticing plush prizes. And if you don’t win, there’s no reason to go home empty-handed, with a gift shop near the entrance offering plenty of souvenirs.

During a recent Media Night, strolling entertainers included stilt walkers, musicians, jugglers and more, keeping guests occupied as they braved the line for Rollin’ Thunder.

Within a month or so, The Park at OWA will be augmented with the opening of  the resort’s first phase of retail development, more than 40,000 square feet of shops and restaurants set to include the area’s first Wahlburgers, the burger chain founded by the celebrity Wahlberg brothers and featured on the reality TV series of the same name. Other shops and restaurants opening in this first phase include Sunglass World, Fairhope Soap Company, Alvin’s Island, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop and Utopia.

For the complete article please see

Barbasol officials happy with crowd attendance in third year, planning for next year

From the article by Lindy Oller in The Opelika-Auburn News

The junior season of the Barbasol Tournament drew in large crowds despite the high temperatures and rain at the Robert Trent Jones Trail at Grand National in Opelika.

Approximately 38,000 people came out to the golf tournament held July 20-23, marking 4,000 less than 2016, but 3,000 more than 2015, according to John Cannon, president of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled for the success of the week and a great young winner,” Cannon said. “With heat indexes of more than 110 degrees throughout the tournament, many golf fans chose to watch the Barbasol Championship on live television rather than coming to RTJ Grand National. Those who attended the Barbasol Championship saw an exciting competition with Grayson Murray earning his first PGA Tour victory.”

Golf Channel coverage of the tournament reached 119 countries worldwide, according to Cannon.

Jonathan Romeo, tournament director, said the golf professionals and caddies were impressed with what the Auburn Opelika area had to offer.

“They’re just amazed at what all is available in Auburn Opelika and how well they were treated while they were on site at the tournament as well as at restaurants and hotels and everything else in the area,” Romeo said.

The economic impact of the tournament was estimated to be $20 million.

“The Barbasol Championship has made a very positive impact on the Auburn/Opelika area, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and the State of Alabama over the past three years,” Cannon said.

Hotel occupancy was at 74.5 percent, lower than the 80.9 percent last year according to Robyn Bridges, vice president of the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau.

Future plans
During each tournament, officials work on what they can improve for the next year, according to Romeo.

“We look at things that go on during the tournament and try to take note because the best way to make it better for the next year is when it’s fresh on your mind,” Romeo said.

Plans for the next tournament begin to take shape the moment the previous one ends.

“The next 30 days we work on next year’s event and hopefully long-term renewals so forth between Barbasol and the PGA Tour,” Cannon said. “It just never stops. You’re always looking for a long-term relationship.”

Romeo said talks are in progress for renewing the tournament.

“We’re working towards securing it for multiple years,” Romeo said.

Romeo said the original agreement was for four years, but was renegotiated after the first year of the tournament.

“We renegotiated the agreement after the first year to extend for two years and that was due just to Barbasol and things that they did internally,” Romeo said. “So we are in the process of extending the original agreement.”

Next year’s Barbasol Championship will return to Opelika, scheduled to be held July 19-22, 2018.

For the complete article please see

New Huntsville music festival set for former Madison Square site
From the article by Matt Wake on

As a kid, Mike Farris would drive to Huntsville from his Winchester, Tenn. hometown to see rock concerts by bands like Foreigner at the Von Braun Center. Later, during the ‘90s, Farris’ own band Screaming’ Cheetah Wheelies performed at the Big Spring Jam music festival here and headlined clubs including Crossroads and Vapors.

Based in Nashville, Farris hasn’t played Huntsville in a few years though.

That will change in August when Farris, who won a 2015 Grammy for his album “Shine For All The People,” closes out the inaugural Fireside Music Festival, a new four-day event coming to MidCity Huntsville, a mixed-use development located on the University Drive area parcel formerly occupied by Madison Square Mall.

Of playing festivals like Fireside, Farris, calling from his home studio, says, “You come in and there’s also this cross-pollination happening. It works from both perspectives, from the stage and as a fan. People get exposed to things they normally wouldn’t and that’s always good.”

Fireside, set for Aug. 9-12, will feature “enormous production,” says Shawn Patrick, in charge of the festival’s music and talent development. This includes a large stage complete with a 16-foot LED screen and multiple cameras to broadcast the action.

The music lineup also boasts: talented young Mississippi rockers Bishop Gunn; major label folk-pop act Firekid (featuring Florence native Dillon Hodges); singer/songwriter and “American Idol” album Paul McDonald; Russ Randolph (formerly of electronic jam-band Boombox); Dave Anderson Project (Huntsville guitar legend Dave Anderson of Atlanta Rhythm Section, Brother Cane and Black Jacket Symphony, performing all-new original music); rising Florence combo Rob Aldridge and The Proponents; melodic, jammy Huntsville band Toy Shop; Muscle Shoals songwriter James LeBlanc Band; and R&B vocalist Billy D. Allen. (Complete festival performance schedule below.)

Farris’ set will feature his nine-piece band Roseland Rhythm Revue, complete with horns and backing vocalists. Expect songs from the last 10 years or so of Farris’s career (sorry, no Cheetah Wheelies tunes), including “Shine For All The People” tracks like “River Jordan” and songs planned for the follow-up LP.

Patrick put the Fireside music lineup together about seven weeks ago. “I’m excited that Huntsville has a new music festival,” says Patrick, who played bass in beloved Alabama alt-rockers Storm Orphans. “And I’m excited about all of the artists that are playing. I’m incredibly excited to see Russ Randolph’s debut show as a solo artist, I think it’s going to be really amazing.”

Tickets for Fireside are capped at 2,000 each day and available via Four-day passes are $45, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday single-day tickets are each $10 advance/$15 day of, Saturday tickets are $25 advance/$30 day of show.

“The pricing’s incredible,” Patrick says. “Our hope is to sell it out. I think the people in Huntsville are looking for a music festival. In a city this big, 2,000 tickets is not a lot so we’ll see.”

Fireside will be the first event held at The Camp, a MidCity precursor with rotating food venues, fixed restaurant, dog friendly park and event programming, according to developer RCP Companies. “The Camp is just going to be really cool and I hope everybody’s curiosity about what’s going to be going on at MidCity is going to bring folks out,” Patrick says. Local food and beverage vendors will also be a part of the 1.4-acre Fireside site. On Saturday, yoga and family-oriented activities will be involved too, organizers says.

Bishop Gunn singer Travis McCready believes playing festivals, “is the most necessary part of the music business,” for a young band developing their audience. “Today when it’s so easy to cut records and upload your music, it gets everything into just a big pile,” McCready says, “and you don’t really know what’s what until you see it live.” Bishop Gunn has been recording at Muscle Shoals Sound. The band’s bluesy southern-rock includes new songs like “Come On Now,” recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound. Drummer Burne Sharp says “Something about this building’s bringing it out of us even more.” McCready calls Muscle Shoals music “the mothership.”

Anderson is used to playing festivals with Atlanta Rhythm Section. His set for Fireside will include songs planned for his first-ever solo album, including “Deja Blue,” “Chasing Vistas,” “Autumn Skye,” “Witching Hour” and “What If.” “I wanted it to be a lot of songs that nobody’s heard before,” says Anderson, a frequent performer and strong-draw at Huntsville clubs. In addition to Anderson on vocals and guitar, the Dave Anderson Project features guitarist Stone Anderson (Dave’s son, also a member of Rob Aldridge and The Proponents), drummer James Irvin, bassist Matt Ross and keyboardist Clint Bailey.

Huntsville has been without a large-scale music festival since Big Spring Jam discontinued after a disappointing 2011. Patrick played the Jam as a member of country band The Inlaws and remembers travelling to Huntsville from the Shoals to attend the festival to see friends’ bands too. “People in the Shoals area were sad when Big Spring Jam closed down,” Patrick says. “I’ve talked to many people who loved to come over here for that.” His long-term hope for Fireside is that it becomes “the replacement for Big Spring Jam and grows into a major regional festival. I think there’s a huge need and want for this (in North Alabama) and it’s something we’re all excited about and the city to be excited about.”

At its peak during the early-2000s, Big Spring Jam drew around 200,000 to downtown Huntsville. Bookings included Foo Fighters, Destiny’s Child, Al Green, Zac Brown Band, Allman Brothers, Joan Jett and a teenaged Taylor Swift. So Fireside certainly has some growing to do, to reach that level. Rocket City Sounds’ Spring Fest debuted in 2015 and has emerged as another eventual potential Big Spring Jam successor, attracting a few thousand or so over two-days to Campus No. 805 this year with a lineup boasting John Paul White, The Dexateens and Dylan LeBlanc.

One thing Big Spring Jam wasn’t known for was being particularly welcoming to local acts. Anderson hopes Fireside’s inaugural lineup is a sign Huntsville musicians will continue to play a more integral role in this festival. “It would be really good to see what they could do to make local bands feel welcome and feel like they belong,” Anderson says.

Checking in from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport following an ARS gig, Anderson feels “you can’t overstate the impact” the return a yearly large-scale festival could have on the Huntsville music scene. Particularly on newer musicians, “because today there are great opportunities online, but not so much great opportunities to make money and play. Playing live is a huge part of them surviving and doing music, which is what we all need.”

For the complete article please see

World’s Longest Yard Sale begins in Gadsden Aug. 3-6
From the article by William Thorton on

The 30th edition of theWorld’s Longest Yard Sale, or the 127 Corridor Sale, will take place Aug. 3 through 6.

In Alabama, the sale begins atop Lookout Mountain in Gadsden, as it spans more than 690 miles to Hudson, Mich.

The sale began in 1987 with an idea by a Fentress County, Tenn., official as a way to promote attractions along back roads. The route originally followed U.S. 127 from Covington, Ky., to Chattanooga, Tenn.

The sale usually features homeowners and others who hawk antiques, clothing, curios and numerous other bargains along the route.

Gadsden has several events planned around the yard sale that weekend.

At Noccalula Falls, hundreds of vendors will set-up throughout the park. The park welcome center at the Kiwanis Pavilion will also have maps, route and area information, free bottled water and yard sale T-shirt.

Then at day’s end, Downtown Gadsden Inc. will stage First Friday on Broad Street from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 4. There will be classic cars, food vendors and live entertainment. Following First Friday, Departure, a Journey tribute group, will present a free concert at the Mort Glosser Amphitheater beginning at 8:30 p.m. Concertgoers may bring cushions and coolers.

For the complete article please see

Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports leader talks about supporting local economy

From the report by Terri Brewer on WBRC-6

Tuscaloosa has a new leader of Tourism & Sports at a time when Mayor Walt Maddox is focusing on the importance of that sector of Tuscaloosa’s economy.

Don Staley was recently named CEO of Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports. Staley was the longtime head coach of Alabama Women’s Soccer, and was part of the early formation of the tourism and sports organization before leaving to become Executive Director of the Foley Sports Tourism Complex.

Staley says he considers Tuscaloosa home, and is excited to return.

“The opportunity of a lifetime came forward for me in this organization,” Staley said.

Earlier this year, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox unveiled his four-year plan for the city, in which he stressed the importance of an “experience  economy” for Tuscaloosa. Maddox said with less revenue coming from retail expenditures, the city must focus on creating experiences that will appeal to both residents and visitors who will spend money associated with those experiences.

Staley says he is excited about that vision. He says through planning and coordination of different events, he wants to get people already coming to Tuscaloosa to extend their stay.

“They can come in early, stay a little late, have things to do while they’re here,” Staley said. “We’ve got an amazing art community here, that we’ve just got to do a better job of exposing it to the folks to coming in. Coupling that with the amphitheater, and the shows that will come forward in the future, all we’ve got to do is to continue to promote that to the folks coming in.”

Although his background is in sports, Staley says he strongly values the role of arts in creating experiences and attracting people to Tuscaloosa. Staley also says Alabama football provides great weekends of tourism for Tuscaloosa each year, but he wants to use the area’s other assets and create new attractions to bring people to Tuscaloosa the rest of the year.

In his four-year plan, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox also discussed the possible exploration of a facility to host large events in Tuscaloosa. Staley was involved in the creation of sports tourism complex in Foley. Staley says he comes to Tuscaloosa wanting to assess what already exists and the type of facility that might be best for Tuscaloosa. Staley says many cities around the country are currently building facilities to accommodate sporting events.

“We’ve got to scan this area and see what facilities are available that maybe we didn’t even think about, and utilize those as we move forward for potential build out of something special. I put more value actually on an event center, where we can have tourism and sports under that roof, because what you have is the opportunity to do meetings, conventions, group tours, bus tours. You’ve got car shows and boat shows,” Staley said.

Staley said many of these events could take place during the week, with sporting events on the weekends. Staley says even though his task in Foley was to help get a sports facility off the ground, he is starting fresh in Tuscaloosa.

“I come in with no agenda. I come in without my old agenda for the sports complex. My agenda is what this mayor and this council and this board wants it to be. And then we take that information, we move forward with it,” Staley continued.

For the complete article please see

Local restaurants still able to sign-up for Alabama Restaurant Week
Locally owned and operated restaurants are still able to sign up for Alabama Restaurant Week at  Signing up is quick and easy.

Alabama Restaurant Week is Aug. 11- Aug. 20
Participating restaurants are listed on the website with their meal offerings. Alabama Restaurant pricing is fixed at $10, $20, $30 and $40 for dinner and $10 and $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.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate in this statewide promotion. For more details and sign-up information please see

Special Coordinator for Alabama Restaurant Week is Courtney Austin, staff member at the Alabama Tourism Department.  You may contact her at 334-242-4674 or by email at

Southern Makers event is Aug. 12-13 in Birmingham

Tickets are on sale for the fifth annual Southern Makers, an event Aug. 12-13, at the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham.  The event moves to Birmingham for the first time this year after previously being held in Montgomery.

More than 100 of Alabama’s top makers, including nationally renowned fashion designers, textile artists, screen printers, jewelers, brewers, winemakers, contemporary artists, farmers, woodworkers, chefs, bakers, architects, industrial designers, preservationists and entrepreneurs, will come together in Birmingham to celebrate Southern creativity and innovation. For more information and to purchase tickets please see

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 in Birmingham
The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 19-22 at the Sheraton Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism provides tourism professionals a chance to gather and learn about the economic impact of the industry on the Alabama economy, learn new strategies for marketing local Alabama attractions and amenities to visitors, raise money for scholarships through silent auctions and celebrate achievements.

For an agenda, list of speakers and registration information please see

Job openings at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is seeking a Content Specialist for the marketing team. The ideal candidate is experienced with content planning and development, including copywriting, SEO and HTML. Experience with web development, WordPress, email marketing, and social media are required. A college degree in journalism, communications or digital production with hospitality or tourism industry experience preferred. To apply, email your cover letter, resume and salary history to The deadline to apply is August 14, 2017. EOE

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is seeking a full-time Gulf Shores Welcome Center Supervisor dedicated to providing exceptional external and internal customer service. Qualified applicants are detail focused, very comfortable working with the public, technology and training new employees in addition to exhibiting high levels of problem solving skills and local knowledge. This position works in tandem with part-time employees in the welcome center lobby while supervising the facility. High school diploma or equivalent required while a BA college degree is preferred. Prior experience in the tourism industry, retail merchandising display, and CRM database are all pluses. Wage based on experience and benefit package included. To apply, send a cover letter and resume to prior to August 25, 2017.  EOE

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Mark your calendars! Alabama Restaurant week is Aug. 11-20. Make sure your restaurant can be found on by creating a partner listing for it today.

Need to touch up your partner account? Go to today.



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