Tourism Tuesdays January 15, 2019

Three Alabama spas named among the 100 Best in North America

British Airways to add flights with higher capacity planes from London to Nashville

Huntsville named one of the ‘52 Places to Go in 2019’ by the New York Times

Alabama Airbnb hosts earned $31 million in 2018 amid continued hotel growth

AMLA announces new North Alabama Ambassadors Program

New AC Hotel in downtown Huntsville now booking rooms

Rock the South announces new location for 2019

Parsons announces retirement

Athens post office to be renamed for Judge Horton

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Three Alabama Spas named among the 100 Best in North America
North Americans continue their love affair with spa and wellness travel as illustrated by Spas of America’s annual list of the Top 100 Spas. This week the No. 1 spa and wellness travel website unveiled its Top 100 Spas for 2018, based on unique page views and consumer choices on Three of these spas are in Alabama and part of the RTJ Spa Trail. The annual award provides insights into consumers’ favorite spas of the year.

The Spa at the Shoals in Florence ranked No. 31 on the prestigious list. Located in the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, the Spa at the Shoals will be updated in late February, according to the new Spa Director, Kari Myers. “With new whirlpools and furniture plus a cosmetic refresh, our guest experience will improve even more in the coming weeks,” said Myers.

The Spa at Ross Bridge ranked No. 33 on the international list. Located in the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, the Spa at Ross Bridge is located in Hoover, just outside of Birmingham. The resort resembles a Scottish castle, has a bagpiper play each evening and is surrounded by one of the longest golf courses in the world.

Just opened in November, the Spa at Grand National was No. 53 on the list. The three-story spa and fitness center is located at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National. The Spa at Grand National was the sixth spa to open on the Spa Trail and helped transform the property designation to the resort status. Both Renaissance Ross Bridge and the Auburn/Opelika Marriott also were named top golf resorts the past three years by the editors of Golf Digest.

“In 2018, we continued to see growth in the North American spa and wellness industry, with increased visits and revenue,” said Spas of America President Craig Oliver. The 2018 International Spa Association U.S. Spa Industry Study, commissioned by the ISPA Foundation and undertaken by PWC, reported consumers make 187 million visits to spas in the United States, generating an estimated $17.5 billion in revenue, translating into an average of $97.70 per visit.

“Spa and wellness consumers in the United States, Canada and Mexico understand wellness benefits their lives by reducing stress, promoting relaxation and increasing well-being,” said Oliver. “Whether guests are traveling alone or in a group, spa and wellness travel offers people a chance to focus on what is important – their own health and well-being.”

From traditional warm stone massages to red carpet ready facials, the RTJ Spa Trail features six spas across Alabama offering innovative treatments in unique settings, said Taylor Fields, Corporate Director of Spa for the RTJ Resort Collection. “We are honored to have three spas featured in this prestigious list and strive to have more highlighted in the future,” said Fields.

“Each spa along the Spa Trail features unique, world-class treatments. These spas are ideal for individual golfers, couples traveling together or for groups of friends looking to relax and be pampered.” The spas are located in Marriott, Renaissance and Autograph hotels along Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Point Clear, Mobile, Montgomery, Hoover, Florence and Opelika.

For more on the RTJ Spa Trail, visit For a complete listing of the Top 100 Spas, visit

British Airways to add flights with higher capacity planes from London to Nashville
British Airways continues to have success with their direct London to Nashville flight. They previously announced the flight will increase this summer from 5 to 7 weekly. Now it’s known that British Airways, as of April 19, will be operating a Boeing class 787-9 instead of Boeing 787-8 and will start First Class service on the flight.

The change in aircraft and extra flights will mean a potential 2,000 extra passengers a month.

This addition is good news for Alabama. With key cities of Huntsville, Florence, Muscle Shoals, Decatur, Fort Payne and Birmingham an easy drive from Nashville it creates more potential tourists. The rest of Alabama also can benefit from the additional passengers flying on British Airways. The airline also has flights from Atlanta and New Orleans to London and allows round trip fares from any of those three Southern destinations cities to London. Alabama Tourism promotes our state as a road trip connection between all three of those surrounding cities served by British Airways in the U.K. market.

The Boeing 787-9 is a mid-size, dual aisle, twin engine jet and Boeing’s most fuel-efficient aircraft to date.

For more information on Alabama Tourism’s International marketing efforts, contact

Huntsville named one of the ‘52 Places to Go in 2019’ by the New York Times
From the article by Erin Dunbar on (WHNT-19)

The Rocket City has earned itself a place alongside cities such as Munich, Las Vegas, and New York after being named one of the New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2019.” Huntsville took the 22nd spot on a list of the best travel destinations in the world during the new year.

Huntsville has a lot to celebrate. Events such as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, daily re-enactments of the landing at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the Guinness World Record attempt for simultaneous model rocket launches, car shows, and downtown parades are staple celebrations.

Another great reason to visit Huntsville in 2019 is the state bicentennial.

“The New York Times discovered what we here in Huntsville have known for a while now – that the Rocket City is the place to be in 2019,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau in a news release.

“Our community has worked incredibly hard to embrace these hallmark anniversaries and create some truly unforgettable experiences for both our visitors and locals, and those efforts are starting to be noticed. We expect to see many visitors coming in for these special events and we know once they experience the warmth, the creativity, and the vibrancy of our city, they’ll be back,” Ryals said.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Airbnb hosts earned $31 million in 2018 amid continued hotel growth
From the article by Jordan Highsmith on

A new report from Airbnb announced that its Alabama host community earned a combined $31 million in supplemental income while welcoming around 215,000 guests in the state during 2018.

There are now more than 2,600 Alabama hosts who share their homes through Airbnb, typically earning around $6,100 annually in supplemental income, Airbnb states.

Statewide data indicates that Airbnb and its host community appear to be complementing, rather than competing with, the Alabama hotel industry. According to the Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama hotels have continued to experience strong increases in occupancy and room rates even as local hosts welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests. Airbnb tells CBS 42 this data suggests the state is opening up to more travelers who are less able to afford hotels, or those who desire to stay in neighborhoods and keep families all under one roof.

In addition to the new income going into the pockets of Alabama homeowners, the state is generating new revenue through a tax agreement between Airbnb and the Alabama Department of Revenue that allows the company to collect the state sales tax and local lodging taxes on behalf of its local hosts and remit the revenue directly to the state.

Airbnb also has individual tax agreements with the cities of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Opelika to collect and remit the tax revenue for their respective lodging taxes.

According to Airbnb, the home sharing community provides significant value through expanded lodging capacity for Alabama communities when hotels sell out during big events. These include Tuscaloosa and Auburn during college football weekends, Talladega during big races, Mobile and Birmingham during major conferences and festivals, and the Gulf Shores community during summer tourism season.

Airbnb also launched Experiences throughout Alabama in 2018, offering handcrafted activities led by local experts in cities like Birmingham, Mobile and more. Experiences is expected to expand further in Alabama in 2019, and the Experiences currently available can be found at–United-States/experiences.

AMLA announces new North Alabama Ambassadors Program
The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is pleased to announce the launch of the North Alabama Ambassadors program, an online influencer program to engage bloggers and content creators to produce compelling material highlighting north Alabama.

“The goal for the North Alabama Ambassador program is to find people who are passionate about the north Alabama region and are posting their adventures on social media or on a blog. We want to highlight these individual’s amazing talent, while promoting AMLA’s 16-county region,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist.

The North Alabama Ambassadors program began with an open application process that AMLA promoted through social networks and the association’s website. Aspiring ambassadors provided a short essay describing how passionate they are about north Alabama’s outdoors, attractions, festivals and food. Top prospects were selected by a combination of their applications and examination of their social profiles, and after careful evaluation, 22 were chosen for the inaugural year.

According to Reist, these enthusiasts will work with AMLA to help inspire and motivate other outdoor fans through social media, the AMLA blog and on the ground in their communities. The North Alabama Ambassadors are located all across Alabama and the southeastern United States and come from all walks of life, including a pilot, occupational therapist, 911 operator and a geospatial analyst.

Those selected will be able to use the title North Alabama Ambassador on their social media accounts and website. In addition, the North Alabama Ambassadors are featured on AMLA’s social media platforms and on AMLA’s blog and receive North Alabama swag (t-shirt, cap, etc.) and featured placement on AMLA’s website landing page for North Alabama Ambassadors.

For more information on the program, visit or contact Reist at 800.648.5381 or 256.350.3500.

New AC Hotel in downtown Huntsville now booking rooms
From the article by Paul Gattis on

Huntsville’s second major downtown hotel overlooking Big Spring Park and across the street from the Von Braun Center is now ready for you to make your travel arrangements.

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown announced Thursday that it is now accepting reservations ahead of its spring opening. And while the announcement gave no specific date for the hotel to open, the Marriott website said its first-of-its-kind-in-Alabama will open in February.

The hotel located at Williams Avenue and Monroe Street, will anchor the $100 million mixed-use City Centre development.

The six-level hotel will include 120 rooms as well as an AC Lounge, AC Library, co-working space, event space and three meeting rooms named after the city’s historic mills—Lincoln, Lowe and Merrimack.

“With its Southern hospitality and strong appreciation for the arts, Huntsville is a great match for the AC by Marriott brand,” Srinath Yedla, CEO of Yedla Management Company, which will manage the property, said in the announcement. “The hotel provides everything essential you need – and nothing you don’t – creating a seamless, tranquil and frictionless experience for guests, whether traveling for business or leisure.”

The hotel will be anchored by Atlanta chef and restaurateur Marc Taft’s new restaurant—The Gemini Kitchen + Cocktails, which is set to open in the fall, according to the announcement. Gemini will be an “approachable polished-casual restaurant for those looking for an affordable, quality dining experience.”

The hotel will also have the flexibility to serve as an event space ranging from business meetings to weddings that can accommodate up to 200 guests.

Marriott describes its AC Hotel as “complemented by a European soul and Spanish roots.” It’s the 10th AC Hotel in the U.S., and is also found in 15 other countries.

For the complete article please see

Rock the South announces new location for 2019
From the article by Mary Colurso on

Rock the South is changing its location this year, but fans of the country music festival in Cullman needn’t fret.

The festival is leaving its usual home in Heritage Park, 1705 Lee Ave. Southwest, for a larger location about two miles away, at 1872 County Road 469. The site will expand from 15 acres to about 140 acres, organizers said, and will allow for camping, RV parking and more on-site parking.

Rock the South has been working with engineering firms to develop the property, create a traffic plan for the event and address concerns about rain and drainage on site, organizers said.

“We are forever thankful that the City of Cullman and Cullman City Park and Recreation allowed us to use Heritage Park for seven years and even more thankful we can continue our incredible relationship, just in a new location,” organizer Nathan Baugh said via a press release.

Rock the South is owned and produced by Baugh of 46 Entertainment and Shane Quick of Premier Productions.

More than 65,000 people are expected at this year’s event, set for May 31-June 1. Rock the South hasn’t released information on acts for 2019, but lineup announcements will start Jan. 22, organizers said.

Rock the South started off small in 2012, with a single-day lineup that featured Dierks Bentley, Kellie Pickler, Brent Cobb and Jon Pardi. The festival changed significantly in 2013, when the new team of organizers replaced the City of Cullman and its parks department. Birmingham’s Jay Barker and Sara Evans were co-owners of the event in 2013-2015, along with Quick, but left the partnership after three years.

Rock the South has continued to change and grow over its seven-year history, presenting performers such as Eric Church, Little Big Town, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Hank Williams Jr., Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Maren Morris, Alan Jackson, The Band Perry, Sara Evans, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more. Despite its name, the festival leans to bro-country and country pop, mixed with some traditional country and Southern rock.

For the complete article please see

Parsons announces retirement
From the article on

J.P. Parsons, Vice President – Destination Marketing of the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce, has announced his retirement. Parsons has been at the Chamber of Commerce for more than 16 years.

His official retirement date will be March 29, 2019.

In his announcement, Parsons wrote, “On March 29, 2019, I will complete 16 years and 3 months with the Greater Jackson County/Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce. It has been an honor to work for a progressive, program-driven Chamber of Commerce in Alabama.

According to the Alabama Department of Tourism’s latest economic impact report, tourism employment in Jackson County totaled 703 jobs, an increase of 8.1 percent in the last five years. The same report indicated that direct travel related expenditures in Jackson County represented a total of $55.8 million into the small businesses of the area, a 10.3 percent increase over the last five years.

Parsons was instrumental in organizing and participating to bring annual major bass tournaments to Jackson County including the Anglers Choice Regional Championship with 600 out-of-state anglers and an economic impact of $900,000 and the McDonalds Big Bass Splash with over 1,200 anglers and an economic impact of $2,600,000. He has served as treasurer on the Alabama Bass Trail Board since it began.

He was the main organizer and promoter of Geo-Tourism in Jackson County, he continues to serve on the key leadership group that has made organized birding and wildlife watching a reality in North Alabama.

Parsons plans to stay active in the area after retirement. He hopes to continue working with fellow Alabama tourism professional and maintain a strong connection. He hopes to work with community organizations to successfully complete grants and help out as a volunteer for events such as fishing tournaments.

For the complete article please see

Athens post office to be renamed for Judge Horton
From the article by Adam Smith on

President Donald Trump this week signed a bill into law to rename the Athens post office as the Judge James E. Horton, Jr. Post Office Building.

The announcement was made by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-5th. Brooks was the original sponsor of the bill, which had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

“DonaldTrump signed into law my bill naming the Athens Post Office for Judge James E. Horton Jr., who took a stand against extreme racial prejudice that risked and ended his judicial career,” read a tweet from Brooks following the announcement.

Brooks introduced the initial bill, H.R. 6513, in July. It was co-sponsored by each of the six U.S. representatives from Alabama.

It is unknown when the post office will be officially rechristened with new signage. A call to a United States Postal Service spokesperson was not immediately returned.

Horton, who was honored last year with a statue at the Limestone County Courthouse, set aside a guilty verdict against Haywood Patterson, one of the Scottsboro Boys, and ordered a new trial. The unpopular decision ultimately ended Horton’s political career.

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said he was excited about the announcement, and regarded the honor as one that is “long overdue.” He noted Athens City Hall sits on land where Horton’s home once stood, and that the mayor’s office is where Horton’s bedroom would have been.

“He walked from here to the (Limestone County) Courthouse to make that decision,” Marks said.
The mayor also expressed pride that lawmakers who may have philosophical differences came together on this issue. He believes the timing of the announcement is also important as the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday approaches.

“This was important for the civil rights movement,” Marks said of Horton’s decision.

Retired Limestone County Circuit Judge Jimmy Woodroof Jr., who chaired the Horton statue committee, said he was very pleased by the news the post office would be renamed. When asked what Horton would have thought of the honor, Woodroof explained Horton was a humble man, as are the surviving members of his family.

“I think it was hard for the family at first to be getting all this acclaim, but once they realized the magnitude of his decision, it was easier for them to accept it,” Woodroof said.

When asked if there would be any other efforts to share Horton’s legacy with Limestone Countians, Woodroof said there have been early discussions about a possible day honoring Horton, which could involve sharing his story with young students. Like Marks, Woodroof was excited by the bipartisan support for the measure.

“In this day and age, it’s wonderful we can come together and stand for justice,” he said. “The fact (Horton) is ours and we can claim him, that’s really something.”

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Inspire Me is a feature designed to help travelers find Alabama events and activities based on their feelings and interests. For example, a user may select “Central Alabama,” “Family Fun,” and “Science and Discovery” which generates a list of Partner events and locations. When creating your listings, use appropriate tags related to the activities offered so they correctly populate in the Inspire Me tool.

Need to touch up your partner account? Visit


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