Tourism Tuesdays November 27, 2018

Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours on Monday nights in December

Alabama Music Hall Of Fame has new director

Politics, civil rights boost Alabama tourism

Surging interest in Black History gives a lift to museums, tourism

New video “Spirit Song” focuses on destinations with Native American ties

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Governor’s Mansion open for candlelight tours on Monday nights in December
Gov. Kay Ivey will open the Governor’s Mansion for candlelight tours on the first three Monday nights in December from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Designers have volunteered their time to decorate the Governor’s Mansion and the neighboring Hill House for the candlelight tours. “This is the people’s house and I want to share it with them during this special Christmas season,” said Ivey.

Tickets for the tours are available free of charge at the gift shop prior to the tours each day.  The gift shop is located at 30 Finley Ave. across the street from the side entrance of the mansion.

The interior design companies working on decorating the mansion include Southern Posies, Lynne Coker Interiors, Magnolia Pointe Designs, Flowers by Amanda, Katherine Trantham Interior Design and CCI Premier ReDesign.

Choirs scheduled to perform include the Forest Avenue Choir on Dec. 3, Albertville High School Show Choir and Diane Shultz on Dec. 10 and Prattville First United Methodist Church and the Saint James Choir on Dec. 17.

The Governor’s Mansion is a 1907 Colonial Revival house located at 1142 South Perry St. in Montgomery and has served as the official residence for governors of Alabama since 1951.  The neighboring Farley-Hill House became part of the Governor’s Mansion complex in 2003 and will also be open for the candlelight tours.

The mansion will be open for candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10 and 17.   More information is available about the Governor’s Mansion candlelight tours by going online

Alabama Music Hall Of Fame has new director
From the article by Russ Corey on

Sandra Killen Burroughs said much of what she’s done in her career so far has prepared her to take on her new role as the executive director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

The announcement that the mayor of Lexington and director of membership recruitment and legislative liaison for the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association was the choice of the hall of fame directors came Tuesday.

She will replace director Dixie Griffin, who is leaving after 21 years with the hall of fame, the past five as director.

“Sandra’s experience with travel, tourism, music event planning, fundraising, marketing and legislative affairs will make this transformation seamless,” board members Judy Hood said. “We are thrilled to have a professional of her caliber who can build on Dixie’s successes as AMHOF director.

“She has taken the lead on several state and regional tourism initiatives and has actively promoted AMHOF and Muscle Shoals music to elected officials on the state and national levels,” Hood said.

Burroughs said she’s worked in tourism since 1995 and has experience in events, sales, catering, hotels, festivals, banquets and “every facet of the director’s position posted in the job description.”

“She will bring a very active energy level to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame,” Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood said. “We’re happy with the hire, and we’ll do whatever we can to help her get established and move forward in the future.”

Burroughs said it was a difficult decision to leave the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.

“When something feels right and it’s the right time, then you know,” Burroughs said. “I feel honored to have been chosen to take on this position.”

She praised Griffin’s dedication to the hall of fame, and she plans to continue her legacy while exploring new ways to promote and move the hall of fame forward.

“I’m excited about her appointment,” Griffin said. “She’s the perfect fit. She has a great work ethic, and she’s a seasoned professional with an enthusiasm that’s contagious.”

Burroughs will start her new job Dec. 17 and will get to work alongside Griffin until the end of the year.

“With the past five years as a solid base, I know the next five will be stronger than ever,” hall of fame board member and State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said. “The selection committee chose very well. I can’t wait for her to get started. The best is yet to come.

“A “thank you” celebration to honor Griffin is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 3 at the hall of fame.

“Dixie cultivated so many supporters that made the museum such a beloved and necessary part of the community,” Sentell said.

Board member Judy Ryals, president and CEO of the Huntsville-Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the search committee reviewed over 50 resumes and was very pleased with the number of qualified candidates.

“Sandra Burrough’s experience in the hospitality and tourism industry will be an asset in marketing this unique attraction,” Ryals said. “Having worked for the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association for over a decade, she has the skills to move the AMHOF forward in the future. Sandra’s enthusiasm, passion, and energetic personality will be valuable in leading this attraction to the next level.“

Burroughs said the Mountain Lakes Tourist Association works closely with the hall of fame.

“The Alabama Music Hall of Fame has been a member of Mountain Lakes since it was created,” Burroughs said.

For the complete article please see

Politics, civil rights boost Alabama tourism
From the article by Brad Harper on

A lot more people came to Alabama and its capital city to see the sights this year, and they spent a lot more money while they were here. About a billion dollars more statewide.

There are a lot of reasons for that — a better economy, for one. But the state’s shifting political image and a renewed, global interest in civil rights are also feeding that growth, said state Tourism Director Lee Sentell.

“I think the average person would be surprised to know that something like an election could have a potential impact on the tourism industry, which is obviously non-political,” Sentell said. “But we had lots of calls and emails the month leading up to (the election of Sen. Doug Jones), people saying, ‘We will never come to Gulf Shores again if’ the election turned out opposite the way they wanted it to.

“In a way, people vote with their money when they go on vacation.”

When it comes to those vacations, Alabama isn’t the biggest fish in the sea, or even in the South. Nearly 27 million people visited Alabama last year, mostly headed for the beaches. And while that number has gone up, neighboring Georgia still draws about four times that many people.

Even within that relatively small pond, Montgomery is still a minnow. But it’s growing fast.

Over 250,000 people have visited the Equal Justice Initiative’s downtown museum and memorial to lynching victims since the sites opened in April. More than that, the burst of international attention that came with those sites has turned the city into a destination, instead of a stop on the way to something else. That’s led more people to discover the city’s other historic sites and attractions, from Martin Luther King Jr.’s church to the site where Rosa Parks boarded the bus.

The surge is happening at a time when “all of the sudden, civil rights is one of the hottest topics” among overseas tourists, Sentell said.

“EJI has put Montgomery on the world’s radar,” he said. “I think Montgomery is in the best position for tourism appeal than it has ever been.”

Now, they’re voting with dollars.

Hotel room stays in Montgomery inched up by about 5,500 in 2017, according to state figures. This year they’re up 97,579 through October, according to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the city’s lodging tax collections are up nearly 10 percent year-over-year, even when setting aside the impact of a 1 percent increase to the tax that went into effect this year. “It’s very close to $12 million this year,” Strange said.

Two more downtown hotels are under construction, and another two are in the planning stages. But it’s not all downtown. Hotel occupancy rates were over 80 percent citywide in August, Strange said.

“A ton of (EJI site visitors) are going to the museum. A ton of them are going to the zoo. A ton of them are going to Shakespeare,” he said. “Something’s driving up a 10 percent raw increase in our lodging tax. We would say that has done a lot to (contribute) to that, and that it will continue to do that for the near term.”

Sentell goes a step further.

“The civil rights movement is Montgomery’s hot hand in tourism marketing for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Look no further than Farris Bell to see why. Her cozy Cottage Hill home has become the most popular Airbnb destination in Montgomery, at a time when Airbnb bookings here are up 194 percent.

Bell grew up here during segregation and said she shares her experiences with her guests.

“The public that’s traveling these days vs. 10 or 12 years ago, they want an authentic experience,” Sentell said. “They want to visit a location where things actually happened and hopefully find witnesses or participants who can talk about (them). There are a number of foot soldiers and witnesses of the civil rights movement, and they can meet and talk to these people.”

For the complete article please see

Surging interest in black history gives a lift to museums, tourism
From the article by Martha T. Moore on

Black history museums and historic sites are flourishing across the South, riding a wave of interest in African-American history that has made a stunning success of the two-year-old National Museum of African American History and Culture in the nation’s capital.

In the past year, museums documenting the civil rights struggle and memorializing lynching victims have opened in Jackson, Mississippi, and Montgomery, Alabama. In Nashville, a museum focusing on African-American music is scheduled to open next year.

And in Charleston, South Carolina, construction is set to begin next year on a projected $75 million black history museum that will stand on the former site of Gadsden’s Wharf, the disembarkation point for more than 100,000 Africans brought to America and sold into slavery.

At a time when attendance at some large museums is flagging — 12 of the 20 biggest U.S. museums saw flat or lower attendance in 2017 compared with 2016 — the swirl of activity involving black history stands out.

In Church Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, for example, a year-old, 17-acre state-national park memorializing the place where Harriet Tubman was born and enslaved was expected to draw 75,000 visitors in its first year; it attracted 100,000.

Meanwhile, curators have rewritten exhibits at sites such as Mount Vernon and Monticello, the homes of Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They’ve also added information and buildings to teach visitors about the lives of enslaved people who worked on the plantations.

“Relevant history is inclusive history. Everyone is racing to do that,’’ said John Dichtl, president and CEO of the American Association for State and Local History, based in Nashville. Museums and other institutions “are all working on emphasizing the history of civil rights and the history of race relations and the history of slavery. It’s a priority for everyone.’’

History professionals cite several factors for the increased interest, including the availability of more federal money, Barack Obama’s presidency, and the 50th anniversaries of many civil rights milestones.

The Black Lives Matter movement, controversies over Confederate monuments, protests by NFL players and last year’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, also have prompted more Americans to want to “grapple with these issues of identity, with race, with nationalism and what that means,” according to Brian Carter, president of the Association of African American Museums, based in Washington, D.C.

“The country is changing. It’s looking at itself in different ways than it has historically,” Carter said. “Museums help people make meaning of their own experiences.”

New federal money also has helped. In 2016, the National Park Service began giving grants to African-American historical sites for personnel, programming and research, though not for construction. This year, the park service awarded $12.6 million in grants to 51 projects in 24 states, up from $7.8 million in grants to 39 projects in 2017.

And last summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a $25 million grant campaign to support important African-American sites — including the home of jazz great John Coltrane in Dix Hills, New York.

Raising the Bar
The new museums and historic sites would be happy to achieve a fraction of the success of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That museum, which occupies a prime location on the National Mall, drew 2.4 million visitors in 2017, making it one of the 10 most-visited museums in the United States.

The museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, “raised the bar of awareness around African-American history and museums. It just stimulated wanting to know more,’’ said Michael Boulware Moore, president of Charleston’s International African American Museum. “This history has largely been muted forever and now this history has been coming out. Now African-Americans, and Americans broadly, are just curious about this.’’

When the national museum opened, “we thought that might have the impact of sucking all the air out of the room. Just the opposite,’’ Moore said. Instead, it has been a catalyst for more presentations of black history, rather than the final word on the subject.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an oversaturation of African-American history in this country for quite some time,’’ Moore said. “There are art museums everywhere, and there are history museums everywhere. I see it as really healthy that there will be African-American museums everywhere.’’

The museum on the Mall also has provided concrete help to other African-American museums. It supports paid internships at museums, including some specifically for students at historically black colleges and universities, and subsidizes professional development conferences for museum personnel. And it provides travel grants for museum professionals to attend the annual conference of the Association of African American Museums.

Civil Rights Tourism
States also are investing in campaigns to promote civil rights tourism. Prompted in part by the 50th anniversaries of seminal events of the 1960s, 14 Southern state tourism agencies in January unveiled a joint website detailing stops on what they are calling the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

It lists about 130 destinations, from the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, that was the site of the first sit-in by black students, to a statue of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer in her birthplace of Ruleville, Mississippi.

Obama declared national monuments at civil rights historic sites in Birmingham and Anniston, Alabama, just before leaving office. Now buildings at those sites — the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham and the Greyhound bus station in Anniston, where Freedom Riders were attacked in 1961 — are being restored with local and federal funds.

President Donald Trump last month designated his first national monument at Camp Nelson, near Lexington, Kentucky, where blacks fled during the Civil War to join the Union Army and where they and their families lived in refugee settlements and sought emancipation. His administration also has been expanding the African American Civil Rights Network of historic sites and started the process to designate the Medgar Evers home in Jackson, Mississippi, as a national monument.

Civil rights landmarks have been “overwhelmed by the response and interest,’’ said Lee Sentell, tourism director for Alabama, which has had its own civil rights trail.

“The idea of grouping them under one umbrella has been very well-received because it helps tell the general public that these landmarks are not one-offs,” Sentell said. Instead, the sites “collectively outline the progression that led to landmark Supreme Court decisions and congressional legislation that dismantled legal white supremacy.”

The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission last year created a “Green Book” mobile app that includes 300 historic African-American sites in the state. The app is named for the Jim Crow-era guides for black travelers that detailed safe places to get food and lodging. North Carolina is planning its own Green Book app that will include sites that were in the original guidebook.

“Cultural tourism, or heritage tourism, is one of the fastest growing markets in the country,’’ said Jannie Harriot, vice chairperson of the South Carolina commission.

“[But] nothing that we do is limited to black people. Sometimes I think white people are more interested in our history than we are. They show up to conferences, they want the information, and sometimes I know it’s for economic reasons — because they know where the trend is now.’’

For the complete article please see

New video “Spirit Song” focuses on destinations with Native American ties
Friday Nov. 23rd was Native American day in the USA.  In honor of the observance, America’s national tourism organization, Brand USA, released the long form video “Spirit Song.” The 25-minute on-demand video shows how Native American music influences America’s people and places.

It was was shot on location in 3 America cities, one of which was Muscle Shoals.

“As we looked for ways to tell our international guests the unique stories of the towns and cities across the United States, we found music resonates across all languages,” said Brand USA President and CEO Chris Thompson. “Native American culture has a large influence across our country, all the way from Maine to Alaska and “Sprit Song” helps us share that with the world.”

The video highlights the Ten-lah-nay Wall, the longest memorial to a Native American in the USA. The wall is also the largest un-mortared rock wall in the United States. It was built to honor a Yuchi tribe member who was forced west in the Trail of Tears and walked back to her home near Florence, Alabama. The woman’s great great grandson built by hand the wall over a course of 33 years, one rock at a time.

It is said she returned to the “singing river”, a reference to the rivers in the area that Native Americans have said sound as if a woman is singing.

Local musicians say these waters may have been the reason that a dozen recording studios located in the Muscle Shoals area. This connection between the belief in the singing river and Muscle Shoals history as a recording center is highlighted.

Video credits include Trace Hendix. Keeper of Ten-lah-nay Wall; David Hood, Will McFarlane, Donnie Fritts, Charles Rose and Spooner Oldham of the Muscle Shoals Swampers.  Fritts and John Paul White are also credited featured musicians.

The video includes still photographs courtesy of Dick Cooper, a Muscle Shoals music historian.

The video was inspired by the album “Voices of the Guardians” by Native American singer-songwriter Gareth Laffely and Emmy Award-winning composer/producer Lance Bendiksen.

“Spirt Song” can be seen by going to the GoUSA channel on Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon TV.  On mobile phones, the channel can be viewed by downloading the GoUSA TV app in Apple and Google Play stores. You may also view by going to the link

For more information on Brand USA, contact

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
2019 is right around the corner! As you gear up for the new year, remember to add events to your partner page. Creating events in advance ensures they will be approved and published with time for users to see them. Don’t have all your event details planned yet? Not a problem. You can always edit events to change or include more information.

Head over to and fill up the event calendar 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.

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