Tourism Tuesdays Nov. 5, 2019

Alabama Tourism Department wins major international award

‘Mockingbird’ courthouse gets preservation grant

American Pickers coming to Alabama

Business at Baldwin beaches booming

At The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff, guests can disconnect in order to reconnect

Flights to New Zealand from Dallas by American Airlines is good news for several
Alabama cities

Boll Weevil Monument

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Tourism Department wins major international award
The Alabama Tourism Department has won an International Travel and Tourism Award – the first U.S. state tourism department to ever win that honor.

Alabama Tourism won the Best Regional Destination Award for its marketing campaign for the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which covers 14 states. The award was presented Tuesday in London at the World Travel Market, one of the tourism industry’s largest and most prestigious trade shows.

“This is an amazing honor,” said Alabama tourism director Lee Sentell, who accepted the award.

Although the state tourism department was competing against finalists from all over the world, including Barcelona, Pradesh in India, the Canary Islands and Brabant in the Netherlands, Sentell said he was always confident that Alabama had a good chance to win.

“Then when we got to the event and were seated at table No. 10: knowing there would only be 16 winners announced, we felt it was a very good omen,” he said.

Birmingham ad agency Luckie and Company created the U.S. Civil Rights Trail campaign, which links museums, churches and other African American landmarks. Sentell told CNBC that Luckie captured video interviews with civil rights foot soldiers from the 1960s and photos of landmarks that tourists can visit that made the campaign an international award winner.

Alabama led the organization of the heritage trail two years ago in partnership with Travel South USA based in Atlanta and the National Park Service. The trail is a result of research to nominate civil rights landmarks as World Heritage Sites.

Sentell said that Alabama just making the final list of nominees was an honor since no state tourism agency had ever been a finalist in any of the International Travel and Tourism Awards 16 categories. But he said winning it was not only an honor but would be a huge help in promoting the U.S. Civil Rights Trail to international travelers. Almost a fourth of the civil rights landmark sites on the trail are in Alabama.

This is the second major award Alabama’s tourism department has won in the past two months. Six weeks ago the Alabama agency won its sixth Mercury Marketing Award in 12 years from the U.S. Travel Association. It was also for the civil rights trail. Awards in years past were for specialty campaigns for the arts, barbecue, music, outdoors and small towns.

‘Mockingbird’ courthouse gets preservation grant
From the article on

The south Alabama courthouse linked to Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is receiving a preservation grant.

The program Partners in Preservation says the old Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville is receiving $125,000 to repair serious structural problems in a wall.

Recipients were announced following an online vote.

The 115-year-old old courthouse is now a museum that tells the story of Lee and fellow writer Truman Capote, who were both from Monroeville.

Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book used the red-brick courthouse as the model for a pivotal trial scene in her story of racial injustice. The two-story courtroom was then recreated as a Hollywood set for the 1962 movie based on Lee’s novel.

Partners in Preservation is a project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

For the complete article please see

‘American Pickers’ coming to Alabama
“American Pickers” is coming back to Alabama in December and is looking for leads throughout the state, specifically interesting characters with interesting items and lots of them. The popular TV show said it would to spread the word to people in Alabama.

“The way we find people and collections for our show is through getting the word out so that people know we’re coming to town and can reach back out to us,” a release from the production said.

“We are looking for different, unusual, and unique items too – something we’ve never seen before and with an interesting story.”

“American Pickers” asked people who are interested to phone number 1-855-OLD-RUST (653-7878), or email, which is

The show can also be contacted on Facebook: @GOTAPICK and you can share our post here.

Please note that Mike and Frank only pick private collections so NO stores, malls, flea markets, museums, auctions, businesses or anything open to the public.

Business at Baldwin beaches booming
From the article by Peter Albrecht on

Tourism continues to grow at Baldwin County beaches. Friday, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism officials released figures for 2018.

The Alabama Department of Tourism Economic Report says Baldwin County beaches (Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach) saw 6.6 million visitors in 2018, up from just 5.7 million in 2014. Visitor spending reached $4.7 billion, up by $1.2 billion in just four years. Since 2015, taxable lodging revenue has grown by an average of 8.6% each year and retail sales have seen an average increase of 6.3% in that time.

“Once again, we have seen strong numbers in terms of lodging tax and retail sales tax revenue, which continues the trend we have experienced since 2011,” said Herb Malone, CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. “We know summer is our most popular time for guests to come enjoy our beaches, but we are also seeing more guests enjoying our area in the other seasons of the year.”

For the complete article please see

At The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff, guests can disconnect in order to reconnect
From the article by Peter Albrecht on

The first thing you notice when you arrive at The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff is the quiet. This most peaceful of places doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of recreation, especially in the fall and winter months. But if solitude and beauty at every turn appeal to you, and if you just need to relax and recharge, this could be the perfect place.

“Ninety-five percent of people get here and want to do nothing,” says Dawn McGriff, who runs the intimate inn on top of Sand Mountain. The lodge is situated near the edge of the bluff, offering panoramic views of the Appalachian foothills in the distance and the Tennessee River below. Gorham’s Bluff is in Pisgah, near Scottsboro in northeast Alabama.

Dawn left her job as a marketing executive in Atlanta in 1994 to help her father, Bill McGriff, develop Gorham’s Bluff, a Traditional Neighborhood concept, on family property he’d bought from his wife’s parents in the 1970s. Dawn’s maternal grandparents had purchased the land in the 1950s with hopes of eventually building a home there.

It quickly became a retreat for the family. Dawn has fond memories of spending Saturday afternoons with her grandmother and her cousins on Picnic Rock, a perfectly flat rock that juts out from the bluff, hovering some 100 feet above the Tennessee River. “It was a pilgrimage of sorts for us,” she says.

To get to the lodge, guests enter the Gorham’s Bluff development off a county road, wind around a lake populated by geese and pass three dozen or so picture-perfect homes in various Southern architectural styles with porches, tin roofs and neat picket fences. There are also many still-undeveloped lots in the planned community, which hasn’t yet reached its full potential.

The three-story lodge, which Dawn describes as “a blown-out rectangular farmhouse,” sits at the end of a circular drive, with upstairs and downstairs porches that run the width of the building which is painted white with a tin roof. The exterior of the lodge, built in 1995, is a little worn. “The shutters need to be fixed, and the eaves need to be painted,” she says. “We’re a little shabby chic.”

Somehow, those imperfections add to the comfort and charm of the lodge. “What I think Gorham’s Bluff does best is, when you get here, you feel your blood pressure fall,” she says. “Everything slows down as soon as you take the curve around the lake.”

Guests enter through a door in the center of the front porch and step into the dining room, where white-tablecloth-topped tables are set for dinner. To the left are the living room and the study; each room is separated by a stone fireplace. The stairs lead up to the guest rooms, four on the second floor and two on the third. All of the guest rooms have their own stone fireplaces.

The second-floor rooms open onto private sections of the back porch, where a pair of rocking chairs offer a spectacular view for miles beyond the bluff. On the third floor, the two guest rooms are tucked under the eaves, with exposed beams overhead and a double-sided fireplace that also warms the bathroom, with a garden tub.

You won’t find televisions in the guest rooms. Instead, Dawn finds that people usually prefer to “disconnect in order to reconnect.” The lodge provides the opportunity to “look full-on at whomever you’re with, even if it’s just yourself. This place does the majority of the work.”

One of her favorite parts of her job is having the chance to “meet the loveliest people,” who come from all over, she says. A recent weekend was particularly serendipitous. When a wedding planned for a prime October weekend was rescheduled, she found herself with an empty lodge. She ended up having three different couples score last-minute stays.

For one of the couples, Dawn arranged room service for breakfast and a massage for two. After another couple arrived, “ooh-ing and ah-ing,” they asked her, “What if we want to get married?” Dawn contacted an officiant, and their friends and family celebrated their nuptials in the dining room. The third couple arrived on Sunday, and Dawn set up a romantic table for them right in front of one of the fireplaces.

“Just a little attention to detail is what we all need,” she says. “All those people went away with special moments in their lives, and we got to be part of it.”

After graduating from Rhodes College in Memphis, Dawn’s first job was working at the then-newly reopened Peabody Hotel. “I’ve always been a huge hotel person,” she says. At the Peabody, “I learned you never tell a customer no.” Dawn’s customer service philosophy is that she’s there if someone needs her, and she’s in the background if they don’t.

Despite having Gorham’s Bluff in her family all her life, Dawn is still as enamored of the place as the guests who come back year after year. “There’s a very special energy here, and it’s not completely due to beauty,” she says. “We sit on rock, and there’s lots of water moving through the rock. It creates a special energy we all feel. This land has a soul of its own.”

For the complete article please see

Flights to New Zealand from Dallas by American Airlines is good news for several Alabama cities
From the article on

Editor’s Note: American Airlines (AA) announces new flights due to joint to business agreement with Qantas.  A new direct service from Auckland, New Zealand to Dallas makes four Alabama cities a one stop destination. American, through its reginal carriers, has direct flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Alabama cities Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery. Alabama Tourism markets to the Australian/New Zealand markets through partnerships with Brand USA and Travel South USA. Australia/New Zealand is already the top overseas market at Space Camp.

This summer, American Airlines received good news: The U.S. Department of Transportation gave final approval of the airline’s joint business agreement with Qantas.

Together, American and Qantas — the flag carrier of Australia, the country’s largest airline by fleet size, international flights, and international destinations, and the third oldest airline in the world — will provide passengers flying between the United States and Australia and New Zealand with more products to better serve them.

The new joint venture will allow American and Qantas to coordinate and plan pricing, schedules, and sales, enhance frequent flyer benefits, and further invest in the overall customer experience. The two airlines are also expected to add codeshare services and allow customers to purchase these codeshare flights to more international flights between Australia and the United States.

Several new routes will launch in the first two years of the partnership as well, according to a joint statement from Qantas and American. For starters, American just announced its new nonstop service from Los Angeles to Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as direct service from Dallas-Fort Worth to Auckland, New Zealand, both which will launch in October 2020.

Meanwhile, Qantas recently announced new routes from Brisbane, Australia to Chicago and Brisbane to San Francisco, which are expected to launch by the end of April 2020. These flights will operate on Qantas’ new Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft.

According to both American and Qantas, the joint venture could create up to 180,000 new trips between the United States and Australia and New Zealand annually.

American and Qantas were already connected within the Oneworld alliance, which allows customers to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles on either carrier, check bags through on connecting flights, share lounges, and extend some other loyalty benefits across the network. The joint business will deepen the existing relationship between the two airlines.

For the complete article please see

Boll Weevil Monument
From the article on

The Boll Weevil Monument, now a century old, comes from a less-demanding time of roadside novelty. Like other venerable marvels — the Fountain of Youth and the Paper House — it has a weirdness that’s easy to visualize, the kind of attraction you’d see drawn as a cartoon on a 1940s postcard map of the 48 states. A monument to a bug? How zany!

The monument was the brainstorm of Roscoe Owen “Bon” Fleming, businessman, city councilman, and rogue promoter of the town of Enterprise. The boll weevil, a tiny cotton-eating insect, had invaded Alabama and forced Fleming’s hometown to abandon cotton for other crops — particularly peanuts — which brought newfound prosperity to the farmers of Enterprise.

In 1919 Fleming convinced the town to put up a monument celebrating the bug, hoping to call attention to Enterprise’s progressiveness and entice curious travelers. “Objections came in from all over the country,” according to a story in the Enterprise Ledger, but Fleming — labeled the “daddy” of the monument — “brushed criticism aside.” Half of the money for the monument’s purchase came from Fleming’s own pocket. It was built in one of the town’s main street intersections — perhaps not coincidentally only a few feet from Fleming’s general store.

Fleming has been bashed by some modern critics for honoring the weevil instead of George Washington Carver, the Alabama African-American agronomist who championed the peanut. A Carver monument would have been as newsworthy as one for the boll weevil, but, sadly, it was never going to happen in segregated 1919 Alabama. Fleming may have felt bad about that. He invited Carver to be the principal speaker at the monument’s dedication — but rain washed out the railroad tracks and Carver never made it to town. At least that’s the story that was told later.

Part of the Boll Weevil Monument’s enduring appeal is its quirky design. A future generation would have simply built a giant peanut, but such straightforward thinking was unimaginable in 1919. Instead, Fleming’s monument was an elaborate fountain, over 13 feet high, with a neoclassical statue of a Greek woman wearing a peplos and holding an oil lamp over her head (which served as the fountain nozzle). Two pendulous light globes hung from the statue’s pedestal, and a walled basin protected the statue from traffic and probably served as an unofficial drinking fountain for mules. Fleming supposedly imported the metal statue all the way from Italy, even though most of the monument came from the Bama Foundry Co., only 90 miles away in Montgomery. It isn’t beyond imaging that Fleming simply made up the story about the Italian statue, or at least didn’t discourage it. This was, after all, a man who turned guinea hens loose in his store and offered a discount to anybody who could catch one. He understood the value of flair.

Surprisingly, one thing missing from the Boll Weevil Monument was a boll weevil. The only hint of the bug was a single mention of it on a plaque bolted to the fountain, and it was a small plaque. That was enough; in 1919 simply dedicating a monument to an insect was considered outrageous.

But times changed, and the monument changed with them. The streets of Enterprise were paved, mules stopped plodding through downtown, and the walled basin was topped with a spiked rail to discourage pranksters from tossing things into the fountain such as laundry detergent and baby alligators. The metal statue was painted white, leading to the common misperception — probably fueled by the Italy story — that the Greek lady was marble (She wasn’t).

The most significant change to the monument, however, was something it was never designed for: a boll weevil.

Credit for adding the weevil goes to to an Enterprise artisan named Luther Baker — and also to the monument’s messy fountain. There are many old photos of the monument, but only one, taken on its dedication day, shows water spraying out of the Greek lady’s lamp — and the ground outside the basin is wet, and no one is standing too close. The fountain appears to have been too vigorous for its own good. It was eventually shut off. Still, 30 years passed before Baker came forward with the seemingly obvious suggestion that a Boll Weevil Monument should have a boll weevil. He fashioned a small metal version, about the size of a man’s fist, and in 1949 mounted it to the now-dry nozzle hole atop the Greek lady’s lamp. If visitors didn’t squint they’d probably miss it, but it was a start.

The boll weevil proved to be a tempting target, despite its lofty perch and public location. It disappeared in 1953, 1974, 1981, and 1985 (a failed theft). Each time a new weevil was added, and each time the weevil was larger than the one before. Enterprise apparently understood the need for more a bug-focused attraction, and bigger weevils kept the monument at the top of the “quirky attraction” list amid ever-higher visitor expectations.

Bug-nappers made their final assault on July 11, 1998, not only ripping off the weevil but the Greek lady’s arms as well. The damage was irreparable. Good fortune, however, again favored Enterprise: a mold of the entire monument had been made in 1996, and that mold was now used to cast an exact replica out of unbreakable polymer resin. It was unveiled on Dec. 15, 1998, and has remained unmolested ever since.

The Boll Weevil Monument at age 100 looks better than it did at age 1, topped with a weevil the size of a basset hound that would have astonished Bon Fleming.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
When posting to social media about your location or events, use #SweetHomeAlabama and #AlabamaFood (when relevant) for a chance to be featured on @AlabamaTravel’s social channels. We love to share what our amazing partners are up to!

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