Tourism Tuesdays Feb. 18, 2020

• The completely appalling tourist attraction you must visit in the US
• Montgomery honored with Gold and Silver HSMAI Adrian Awards
• The Hotel at Auburn University receives STS 2020 Shining Example Award
• Rosa Parks Museum director headed to DC
• Elmore County aims to increase lodging taxes
• Connections are key to tourism success
• Amtrak link between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama takes step forward
• Alabama Tourism Department’s 2020 Spring tourism workshop
• “Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


The completely appalling tourist attraction you must visit in the US
From the article by Robert Curley from Australia’s

Editor’s note: The article talks about places in Mississippi and Alabama, here is the part about Alabama.

Slavery was abolished in America in 1865, when congress finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Still, people tend to be disinclined to give up prejudices just because the federal government tells them they’re wrong. In the South, in the first two years after the end of the American Civil War, thousands of African Americans were murdered for exerting their newly won rights. These murders — sometimes called “racial terror lynchings” — then continued for decades as a new social hierarchy was constructed based on ideas of segregation and white supremacy. In other words, slavery did not truly disappear; it simply evolved into something else.

That something else, and the “racial terror lynchings,” are the focus of a poignant memorial which opened last year in Alabama. Montgomery is a town famously associated with the modern civil rights movement. Here is where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white man in 1955. Here is where a young reverend named Martin Luther King, Jr. organised a bus boycott, which led the Supreme Court to demand integration, and thrust King onto a national stage.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice sits in the centre of Montgomery, high on a green hillock. It was created by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit which provides legal services to incarcerated people who can’t afford a lawyer. (They have more work than they can handle.) The memorial is based on years of research in public archives by Stevenson’s staff — years of research that uncovered evidence of almost 4400 lynchings perpetrated “by groups of two to over 10,000 white people.”

Approaching the hill is to be confronted almost immediately with a breathtaking sight. On the ascending pathway, I pause — as do a crowd of school children — in front of Africans in chains. There are shackles around their necks, and their faces are contorted in confused misery. The Ghanaian artist who made these graphic statues, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, has no interest in consoling: he means to shake you awake.

The rest of the Memorial may be less visually abrupt, but it disturbs me no less for its symbolic implications. At the top of the hill is a square cloister, which begins at ground level and then spirals down into the earth. On the walkway are 800 steel columns, each one engraved with the names of lynching victims from various counties, including the one where the Whitney is located. As I walk down the spiral, the columns remain fixed in place, so I must increasingly crane my neck upwards to make out the names. Eventually, like a punch to the gut, I realise that the columns are dangling overhead. As Billie Holiday once sang, “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” Through the power of creative architecture, the memorial makes a visitor a witness.

It does this at the same moment it is confronting you with incomprehensible stories, etched into the walls: “Frank Dodd was lynched in DeWitt, Arkansas, in 1916 for annoying a white woman.” Mary Turner, meanwhile, “was lynched, with her unborn child, at Folsom Bridge at the Brooks-Lowndes County line in George in 1918 for complaining about the recent lynching of her husband, Hayes Turner.”

As I emerge back into the sunlight, the true purpose of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice becomes clear. In a “Memorial Park” replicas of the 800 steel columns are lined up waiting to be collected. Beginning next year, each county will have an opportunity to acknowledge and confront its own complicity in the historical violence. What the Equal Justice Initiative has created is a stunning monument meant to trigger a national conversation — or a national reckoning.

The need for this reckoning is only reinforced at an accompanying Legacy Museum, which brings the story up to date. Slavery is over; Jim Crow is over; lynchings are over; but is prejudice over? The museum argues no. It illustrates ways in which the American criminal justice system is tainted by an implicit bias that disproportionately targets people of colour. Whether police brutality or unequal incarceration rates — “one in three black baby boys is expected to go to jail or prison,” a plaque claims — the evidence is troubling.

As I walk around, one image stops me cold. “Incarcerated men are forced to labour in the fields at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, formerly a slave plantation,” the caption reads. The photograph, showing a line of black men being directed by a white man on a horse, could have been taken at an 1800’s plantation. And yet it was taken in 2011.

Five more sights in Montgomery
1 The Civil Rights Memorial
Resembling a giant granite clock, the Civil Rights Memorial lists the names of martyrs who have fought to make America a more equal place. A quote from Martin Luther King Jr. — “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” — is set in a waterfall.

2 Martin Luther King’s Home
The parsonage that Martin Luther King Jr. once called home, and that was bombed by white supremacists in 1956, is at 309 South Jackson Street. It has since been restored and now features a small museum.

3 The Freedom Rides Museum
This commemorates the site of a 1961 anti-segregation protest and is housed in an old Greyhound bus station. It is part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail which crosses 14 states.

4. Rosa Parks Museum
The stop where Rosa Parks climbed on a bus and changed the course of history is marked at Court Square. Nearby is the Rosa Parks Museum, detailing the boycott and its aftermath.

5 First White House of the Confederacy
During the Civil War, the Confederacy’s only president, Jefferson Davis, made Montgomery his first capital. The “First White House of the Confederacy” survives at 644 Washington Avenue, complete with original period pieces and a dubious narrative of Jefferson Davis as a “patriot.”

For the complete article please see

Montgomery honored with Gold and Silver HSMAI Adrian Awards
The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce that they are the recipient of one Gold and one Silver Adrian Awards, presented by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) at the Adrian Awards Dinner Reception and Gala. Held on January 21, 2020, Montgomery was honored for their work in conjunction with the grand opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum as well as their efforts promoting the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and Airbnb.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by our industry peers for two of our most significant projects to date,” says Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President Dawn Hathcock. “With the opening of EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum and the Zelda Suite, Montgomery is quickly becoming a must-visit, cultural destination in the south, and we look forward to continuing this momentum with new developments in 2020.”

Montgomery was recognized as a Gold Winner of the 2019 Adrian Awards for their campaign tied to EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum’s grand opening in 2018. Through strategic planning, the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce generated positive press, adequately portraying the city and the new memorial and museum as a meaningful place where people can gather, reflect, remember and honor those who suffered racial inequality.

Also distinguished as a Silver Winner for their Zelda Suite campaign, Montgomery secured national recognition for the city’s brand-new Fitzgerald-themed Airbnb, located in the former home of the literary couple. While the two-bedroom Zelda Suite is located on the second floor of the home, the only museum in the world dedicated to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald is located on the first floor.

The Hotel at Auburn University receives STS 2020 Shining Example Award
The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) has awarded The Hotel at Auburn University the 2020 Shining Example Award – Best Lodging Partner at their annual convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Feb. 11, 2020.

This award recognizes a lodging partner that “supports their community above and beyond their four walls.” The Hotel at Auburn University was nominated by Auburn Opelika Tourism in appreciation for the organization’s commitment to the community. 2020 marks the inaugural year for this award, and the Hotel was selected as the top facility in all 13 southern states.

“The Hotel at Auburn University has always been an integral partner to us and has always gone above and beyond for the community,” said Robyn Bridges, Auburn Opelika Tourism Vice President. “They lead by example and are setting the standard for lodging here in Auburn-Opelika.

“The Hotel’s philanthropic endeavors are numerous and include work with Storybook Farm, their partnership in the Auburn University Hospitality Management Program to help educate the future leaders of the industry, the Food Bank of East Alabama, the Women’s Philanthropy Board, serving the annual Thanksgiving meal and 9/11 anniversary meal for first responders and annual Veteran’s Day breakfast. Additionally, the Hotel rises to the occasion when tragedy and disasters have struck our area, including during the deadly 2019 tornadoes that struck Beauregard and when Hurricane Dorian threatened our area in August.”

Hans van der Reijden, managing director at the Hotel, and Todd Scholl, director of sales and marketing at the Hotel, were in attendance at the event to accept the award.

“We are humbled and honored,” said van der Reijden. “We love this community and are proud to use our talents and gifts in ways that give back. We not only feel we are the ‘front door to Auburn,’ but your next-door neighbor as well. I’d like to thank Auburn Opelika Tourism for their nomination and the Southeast Tourism Society for this award. I would also like to thank Auburn University for their endless support.”

STS, founded in 1983 and headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tourism to and within 13 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Rosa Parks Museum director headed to DC
Dr. Felicia Bell, who has served as director of the Rosa Parks Museum for almost five years, has resigned her position to accept a major position with the Smithsonian Institute, Troy University Vice Chancellor Ray White has announced.

Dr. Bell will become the Senior Advisor to the Director of the National Museum of America History.

State tourism director Lee Sentell, who served on the selection committee when Dr. Bell was hired in 2015, praised her engagement and vision during her tenure in Montgomery.

Elmore County aims to increase lodging taxes
Hotel stays in Elmore County will likely me more expensive in the future.

The Elmore County Commission is backing legislation to “levelize” the lodging tax rates in the county. The move to increase some lodging tax rates, fees added to hotel stays, came in the wake of neighboring Autauga County getting a 3% lodging tax increase within Prattville city limits passed through the Legislature last year. There are about 1,200 hotel rooms in the county, with the vast majority being in the Elmore County portion of Prattville.

The state of Alabama collects a 4% lodging tax fee statewide. Elmore County wants to bring the total tax collected to 15.5%, including the state’s portion. That means a 3% increase in the Elmore County portion of Prattville and Millbrook, a 5.5% increase in the Elmore County portion of Tallassee. A portion of east Tallassee is in Tallapoosa County.

The bill will call for no change in Wetumpka’s rate, which is at 15.5%. The bill also calls for a $2 per night, per room fee. Prattville will be exempt from the room fee, since it already has a $2 fee in place. Money collected from the fee goes to fund projects for the city’s parks and recreation department.

The tax rate in the unincorporated areas of the county will increase 11.5%. That rate will affect businesses operating as a bed and breakfast and Airbnbs, said Richie Beyer, chief engineer and operations officer for the county.

The legislation calls for 67% of the money collected to go to the county commission, and 33% returned to the city where is was collected. The money going to the commission will fund economic development, tourism and quality of life projects, said Commission Chairman Troy Stubbs.

“The increase will put us close to the lodging tax rate in Montgomery County,” he said. “We will still be competitive. We don’t want to put anyone in a negative light from a competition standpoint.”

Montgomery has a 15 percent lodging tax along with a $2.25 per night, per room fee.

Elmore County needs the additional money, said District 4 Commissioner Bart Mercer. Beyer estimates the increase will bring in about $900,000 per year.

“The majority of our money is spent on public safety and public works,” Mercer said. “There is not a lot of money left over for quality of life projects.”

Lodging taxes are viewed as painless taxes by most politicians, with the logic being they aren’t paid by residents. People traveling through the communities are the ones most likely to pay the taxes.

During the past two decades, the Elmore County portion of east Prattville has seen tremendous retail, lodging and entertainment growth. The area has seen half a dozen hotels built in the past five years. The area’s economic engine has been a boon to coffers for the Elmore County government and school system. But the fact that Prattville is in two counties can cause confusion and some unique situations. There are three hotels in east Prattville that have portions of their lots in both counties.

Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr. said he hasn’t seen the proposed legislation coming out of Elmore County. Prattville did not levy a lodging tax until the city floated about a $6 million bond issue to land the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in the mid-1990s. The course is credited with kicking off the bulk of hotel growth on the east side. The city’s initial lodging tax was used to make the bond payment. It has been increased through the years, with the majority collected going for economic development projects.

“Most of the hotels in Prattville are located in Elmore County, but we also have some local bed and breakfasts that collect and submit lodging taxes,” Gillespie said.

“Our lodging taxes are used to help fund the chamber of commerce, HPRA (Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority) which includes the public safety building project, the Prattville airport, and various tourism activities. Our $2 per night fee goes toward Parks and Recreation capital projects like Mac Gray Park and Mac Gray Park 2.0 (improvements).

“We worked with local hotel owners during our implementation of the lodging tax and continue working with them on an almost daily basis.”

For the complete article please see


Connections are key to tourism success
From the article by Donna Thornton on

Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association President/CEO Tami Reist sees opportunity for the Etowah County area, growing out of the construction of an impressive recreation facility to the north.

Reist said she recently toured the City of Albertville’s $60 million development. “My jaw dropped,” she said, speaking to The Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County’s Rise and Shine Economic Development series.

She said Albertville is fortunate to have a progressive mayor and a passionate parks guy, but it does not have sufficient lodging to keep up with what that development can be expected to bring in.

While two hotels will be built there, she said the Etowah County area has hotels already in place that can serve visitors to Albertville.

Working together — without regard for county lines and city boundaries — is a key to growing tourism, according to Reist.

The AMLTA is made up of 16 counties in North Alabama. Etowah is the only county included that is outside the Tennessee Valley Authority area, but those present at Friday morning’s discussion, including Chamber President Heather New and Downtown Gadsden Inc. Executive Director Kay Moore, said inclusion in the association is well worth the modest cost of membership.

The association promotes tourism throughout the region and looks to do more to “move the needle” in tourism for the state.

Reist noted the “trail mix” of promotions that encourage and enable tourists to follow a path of Alabama offerings: a winery trail, a waterfall trail, a craft beer trail, a bass trail, a barbecue trail, a motorcycle trail and a Hallelujah trail of historic churches.

She described the ways communities can promote not only their own attractions, but the ones in neighboring areas.

“Think about your city,” Reist said. “Think about your neighbors.

“I’ve got people who won’t cross county lines,” she said. “They’re hurting themselves”

She referred to perhaps the premiere tourist attraction in the Huntsville area, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

“Our rocket is the anchor,” Reist said. “Don’t get mad at the rocket. Work around the rocket,” to serve the tourists the center brings to the region, and draw them to surrounding communities.

The association promotes tourist attractions in North Alabama through many means — including print. She said 40,000 brochures promoting the waterfall trail — which features Noccalula Falls, naturally — are in hotels and other places visitors will encounter them.

Reist praised a bill sponsored by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, which would enable wineries to sell their product with greater ease. She noted that now when people visit Maraella Winery in Hokes Bluff, they can’t buy wine and have it shipped to their home.

Also, when people visit the Wine Crush in Huntsville, they can’t buy a bottle of wine from a local winery at the festival — they have to go to the store.

For the complete article please see

Amtrak link between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama takes step forward
From the article by Robert Curley on

City officials in Mobile, Alabama have signed off on a plan that would establish Amtrak train service between the Gulf Coast city and New Orleans.

The city council voted 6-1 in favour of the Southern Rail Commission’s proposal for new rail service between the two cities, with stops at Pascagoula and Bay St Louis in Mississippi, as well.

“We have a lot of money leaving this city going to the casinos in Mississippi and Louisiana and it’s time we keep some of that money in Alabama, in Mobile,” said council member C.J. Small.

Council member Gina Gregory added: “I look at this as an amenity for our citizens more than a tourist attraction but either way, it’s for our citizens so they can enjoy getting on the train and going to New Orleans or going to Mississippi.

“I also do hope to see some tourists coming in … so that we can bring tourists into town to enjoy our little spot here on the Gulf Coast.”

Service is schedule to commence in 2023, contingent upon the Southern Rail Commission’s ability to secure matching funds for the project.

For the complete article please see

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2020 Spring tourism workshop
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its Spring Tourism Workshop April on 29. The workshop will be held in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building. The workshop is designed to inform our tourism industry partners, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in their area. ATD’s staff members will attend this workshop, and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. So, mark your calendars and make plans to attend.

For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at Rosemary.Judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
It may still be chilly outside, but now is the time for planning summer vacations. Give users a great experience by keeping information and photos up to date on your Partner page. Ready to update your page? Head over to today.


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