Tourism Tuesdays June 12, 2018

Alabama Tourism Department wins Silver ADDY
Chicagoans sail over Alabama beaches – without leaving the Windy City
Marriott Aloft Hotel coming to Huntsville’s MidCity
Minor league baseball in Madison
Stricklin Hotel to open next month in Florence
Top kid-friendly vacation destinations
Restaurants, sign up now for Alabama Restaurant Week 2018
Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Tourism Department wins Silver ADDY
The Alabama Tourism Department, in partnership with marketing solutions firm Luckie & Co., has won a prestigious Silver ADDY honor for its work on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail project. The awards ceremony took place on June 8 in Chicago.

The American Advertising Awards (ADDY’s) are the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting more than 40,000 entries through local AAF Club (Ad Club) competitions. The mission of the competition is to recognize and reward the creative spirit of excellence in the art of advertising.

In the category Out-of-Home & Ambient Media – Poster – Single Unit, Luckie & Co. and the Alabama Tourism Department won Silver for their work related to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, specifically for a print poster used to promote the trail at live events. A national Gold ADDY is recognition of the highest level of creative excellence, judged to be superior to all other entries in the same category. Entries that are also considered outstanding and worthy of national recognition receive the Silver ADDY.

Launched on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2018, connects 14 states and over 100 landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement. The site functions as part travel planner, part history lesson and part catalyst for travelers who have a high interest in historical sites and families who want to add a meaningful educational component to their travels.

Conducted annually by the AAF, the national ADDY competition is the capstone for three phases of competition, starting with local Ad Club entries at which Luckie & Co. was victorious in the Georgia competition. Luckie also took home top honors in the regional District 7 ADDY competition in April, advancing from there for consideration to the national competition.

“This U.S. Civil Rights Trail initiative has been one of the most impactful our firm had ever worked on,” said Luckie & Co. president John Gardner.  “Many of the major events along what is now The Civil Rights Trail took place in our home communities, and we are proud to help tell the amazing story that impacted a nation.

“While the work reflected Luckie’s creative talent, more importantly I believe it showed our humanity – rarely do you show work to your internal team and get a response that includes tears mixed with high fives,” added Gardner.

“This win marks the second national ADDY that Luckie has produced for the Alabama Tourism Department in three years,” said Lee Sentell, state director, Alabama Tourism Department. “Miles Wright’s brilliant art direction embracing Art Meripol’s creative photography truly captured the essence of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, and Luckie’s collaboration with us brings the drama of the Civil Rights Era to life for countless travelers.”

Wright is senior art director at Luckie, and Meripol is an award-winning photographer based in Alabama.

Chicagoans sail over Alabama beaches – without leaving the Windy City
From the article by Jared Boyd on

Those in the know about Alabama are certainly privy to one of the state’s greatest ambassadors: its beautiful sandy beaches along the Gulf Coast.

Thanks to the miracle of technology, the citizens of Chicago experienced the relaxing atmosphere of Baldwin County — during their work day, smack dab in the bustling city.

As a part of Alabama State Tourism’s “Sweet Home Alabama” program, Chicagoans had a chance to imagine the breeze of the gulf in an intimate virtual-reality experience.

The demonstration was Wednesday in Daley Center Plaza.

“We love to bring some of Sweet Home Alabama’s magic to the unsuspecting tourist,” Lee Sentell, director of the state’s tourism department said. “Everyone’s looking for that perfect vacation; the kind where you return refreshed and rejuvenated. The sugar-white sands of Alabama can be your perfect vacation, whether your goal is to lie on the beach or experience an adventure on the surrounding bays and lakes.”

The VR simulation allowed Chicagoans to view Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in modes such as a parachute canopy or a wandering parasail.

“Coming off of the very cold winter experienced across the Great Lakes this year, Chicago is the perfect location for a fun beach escape like this,” Herb Malone, President and CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism says. “Not only does Interstate 65 take you right from Chicago to Alabama, but there are several non-stop flight options from Chicago to the nearby Pensacola International Airport. The ease of getting to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach makes our area a great beach option for Chicago residents.”

Hopefully, after such a restful Alabama vacation, those Chicagoans will be able to get back to work — where they’ll likely start planning their actual Alabama getaway on company time!

For the complete article please see

Marriott Aloft Hotel coming to Huntsville’s MidCity
From the article by William Thornton on

Marriott’s Aloft Hotel is coming to MidCity.

Construction on a six-story, 130-room hotel is set to begin this fall, with an opening in late 2019. Located on the south end of MidCity Drive at the Pointe, the area’s epicenter, the hotel will be the tallest building along the main street of what is the fourth largest commercial real estate project in the U.S.

RCP Companies, overseeing the development, has enlisted privately held Yedla Management of Huntsville to manage the hotel. Yedla has a 40-year history of developing, owning and managing Marriott and Hilton hotel franchises.

Aloft has 140 hotels in 20 countries, but this will be the first location for Huntsville.

The chain features a unique architectural design for each location, with loft-style rooms featuring urban contemporary architecture. Like other Aloft locations, Huntsville will feature a Re:mix lounge and WXYZ bar, Re:fuel café and industrial design elements.

Max Grelier, RCP Companies co-founder, said the franchise will fit into MidCity’s concepts of aesthetics and unique experiences and will provide a social gathering space for events in MidCity.

“RCP is proud of its continued relationship with the Yedla team and expects that this hotel is the first of many compelling hospitality brands that will soon call MidCity home,” Grelier said.

Srinath Yedla, CEO of Yedla Management Co., said he is “delighted” with the MidCity opportunity, which allows the company to expand its local presence.

It’s the latest in a series of announcements for the development. MidCity’s $20 million Topgolf and the Camp at MidCity, an entertainment venue, opened last year. Celebrity-driven dining concepts Wahlburgers and Rascal Flatts are two first-to-market restaurants, while Alchemy Lounge will open its second Huntsville location at The Camp.

Earlier this year, RCP Companies, which is also the developer of CityCentre, announced a partnership with Georgia-based Southern Fried Hospitality – and award-winning chef Marc Taft, an Alabama native – to provide hospitality management and restaurant development for the two mixed-used projects. And Dave & Buster’s is coming in July 2019.

For the complete article please see

Minor league baseball in Madison
From the article by Paul Gattis on

Yes, there’s going to be a swimming pool in the outfield and such diversified options at the concession stands that Ralph Nelson considers the hiring of the right stadium food and beverage supervisor to be critical.

And, no, if you’re thinking this is going to be the Huntsville Stars and Joe Davis Stadium 2.0, you’re going to be more wrong than saying the sky is green.

And then there’s the Jimmy Buffett aspect, whose chain of Margaritaville hotels will have a location that will be integrated with the stadium. And if Buffett wanted to come to the stadium and sing some songs, well, “I don’t think that’s a long shot,” Nelson said. “I’ll leave that at that.”

Nelson is the managing general partner of BallCorps Inc., which purchased the Mobile BayBears earlier this year and will move the team to Madison in 2020. He described himself Thursday as an “administrator” after working as an executive in Major League Baseball for 25 years.

But as he wrapped up a media blitz promoting Saturday’s community event groundbreaking of the $46 million stadium, Nelson apparently could adequately wear the hat of “salesman,” too.

“The business has changed so significantly since the Stars were here,” Nelson said during an interview with “Somebody just asked me in another interview, there is so much positivity, is there anything you incur that’s negative?

“The only negative is if you use the Huntsville Stars or Joe Davis as your reference point, you’re going to be shocked by what we’re doing.”

The Stars, of course, played in Huntsville’s Joe Davis Stadium from 1985-2014. What began as a popular attraction ended with sparse crowds and a city that had lost interest in going to an antiquated, bare-bones stadium.

The new Madison stadium – designed by renowned stadium architects Populous – will be both smaller and bigger than Joe Davis and will be an anchor of Town Madison, a sprawling mixed-use community under construction along I-565.

On the smaller side, it will have less than half the number of fixed seats – only 4,000 – than Joe Davis’ 10,000. On the bigger side, it will have so many amenities that if you leave a game without knowing who won, Nelson will consider your experience a success.

For example, if you’re floating in the lazy river between the stadium and Margaritaville hotel next door, do you really care who scored the most runs in the game?

“My favorite stat that will probably become really famous around here is that a couple of years ago, they did a survey of minor league baseball fans leaving ballparks all over the country,” Nelson said. “They found that an astounding 80 percent of minor league baseball fans leaving a ballpark did not know who won or lost the game.

“The reason is because minor league baseball is about the fan experience. So food and beverage is critical to that.”

While there will just 4,000 traditional stadium fixed seats, the facility’s capacity will be about 7,000 people for a game.

“It’s in a social setting – whether it’s the berm, the party decks, the picnic area, the rock porch bar, the suites, the club upstairs,” Nelson said. “These are all various areas where 20, 50, 150 people are together and enjoying the game together with food and beverage and everything that goes with it. It’s a different business than what people around here remember.

“It’s become a social event. The game’s changed. The business has changed.”

Compare that description with your memories of attending Stars game at Joe Davis Stadium.

“We studied the Stars,” Nelson said. “We know why they were so successful early and why they were so unsuccessful late. One of the first thing is the owners, they were all locals. They all lived here and were part of the community. Miles Prentice (the Stars last owner) didn’t do that. I told (Madison Mayor) Paul Finley, first meeting, if we make this deal happen, I’m going to move my family here (from Vermont) and become part of the community. And I have.”

The dreadful finish the Stars had in Huntsville – when it was routine for fewer than 1,000 people at the games – is not an indictment on the market, Nelson said.

“I believed very early after we began the process of purchasing the Mobile team that this is the best market in the country that did not have a minor league team when we started this,” Nelson said. “Without question. And we all know about the population, the growth, the demographics. But I truly believe that.

“So why wasn’t minor league baseball successful in 2014? There were reasons. There was a ballpark that had deteriorated. There was no money put by the team into the facility. The owner was absentee. There was not a lot of capital. Those guys were working their tail off and didn’t have capital to do it with or the staff to do it with. We’re going to have 23-24 full-time employees plus hundreds on game day.”

As part of a commitment to embed himself into the community, Nelson’s organization, BallCorps Inc., is also planning to start a charitable foundation that will donate equipment to youth sports organizations across north Alabama.

“We’re not going to do anything in a vacuum. We’re going to be part of the community. That’s probably our No. 1 philosophy.”

For the complete article please see

Stricklin Hotel to open next month in Florence
From the article by Lisa Singleton-Rickman on

The soon to open Stricklin Boutique Hotel on Court Street means yet another addition to this niche market is coming to downtown.

The hotel’s general manager, Shawna Moore, updated the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism board Thursday on the project that she says will ultimately be a unique special events venue.

Moore said the opening is scheduled for mid-July.

The building, which houses the recently opened Big Bad Breakfast restaurant, will offer 24 rooms with a market place, banquet facilities to hold between 80-100 people, a meeting space, and a bowling alley/arcade and bar area in the boiler room.

Moore said room costs will range from $129-$199 per night and will be booked online. Valet parking will be offered for overnight guests.

Moore said she expects the facility to be a wedding venue destination and obtainable for various special events where the entire facility may be rented but will otherwise be open to the public.

“The hotel won’t be traditionally staffed as with a front desk, but we will have someone on the property pretty much around the clock,” Moore said. “Guests will know how to reach someone if a need arises.”

Board members also discussed the state’s recently-released economic impact report that showed modest tourism revenues in the Shoals.

Board chairman David Muhlendorf said the report clearly stated the areas throughout the state that showed growth are those with higher lodging taxes.

The board agreed a planning meeting was needed to discuss a strategic, working plan for tourism.

Board member Larry McCoy said it’s past time the group looked at “where we’ve been, where we are now and what we want the future to look like in tourism.”

He said a 3-5 year plan is needed, not as a study, but as an active plan to put into place immediately.

Board member Chris Lewis agreed, saying the opportunity is here to “push for a (lodging tax) increase for all the right reasons.”

He said the city of Florence already has a plan in place and it’s a matter of the various tourism entities getting on the same page and working together for growth.

The board’s next monthly meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 12. The group will meet immediately after that meeting in a work session to gather ideas and devise a strategic plan, which they will present to their tourism industry partners for input and suggestions.

For the complete article please see

Top kid-friendly vacation destinations
Trip Advisor put together a list of America’s 20 most kid-friendly places for a family vacation. Two Alabama cities made the list.

Huntsville, Alabama
Launch a lifelong fascination with space at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, a kid-friendly vacation spot that’s perfect for aspiring astronauts. A series of interactive exhibits keep kids engaged with the science and pure adventure of space: strap into the g-force simulator, try out space walking in a zero gravity chamber, and watch space footage on a towering IMAX screen.

Orange Beach, Alabama
White-sand beaches shelter a maze of bays and bayous in Orange Beach, a relaxed family vacation spot on the scenic, sunny Gulf Coast. It’s one of the best places to go with kids who love to play in the sand and salt water, whether you’re spotting dolphins from a waverunner, teaching your children to bait a hook on a private fishing charter, or just building sand castles on the picture-perfect beaches.

For the complete article please see

Restaurants, sign up now for Alabama Restaurant Week 2018
Restaurants, sign up and be a part of the locally owned and operated restaurants that participate in Alabama Restaurant Week 2018. This year the more-than-weeklong event is Aug. 10-19. Last year almost 100 restaurants were a part of the event showcasing local food, fun and flavor.

This year, participating restaurants will receive in-store promotional items and be listed on the website along with their meal offerings. Participating restaurants set meal prices 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 have the choice of offering one or more meals at the preset price.

There is no cost for restaurants to participate in this statewide promotion. For more details and sign-up information, please or contact Courtney Austin at 334-242-4674 or Grey Brennan at 334-242-4545.

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism is Aug. 4-7 at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa.

The conference 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

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Would you like to be featured in the 2019 Alabama Vacation Guide? Login to your Partner account and submit your events by June 30, 2018!


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 Dwayne O’Riley at:

Alabama Tourism Department