Tourism Tuesdays March 3, 2020

ATD Spring Tourism Workshop April 9

Senate passes Jones-Shelby resolution calling Clotilda ‘monumental discovery’

Nearly 90 percent of U.S. travelers have yet to cancel plans due to virus

Alabama chefs, restaurants, bar among James Beard semifinalists

Alabama film industry set for blockbuster year after record 2019

Alabama’s red snapper season to open May 22

Local tourism board looking forward to 2020

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


ATD Spring Tourism Workshop April 9
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its Spring Tourism Workshop April 9. 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

Senate passes Jones-Shelby resolution calling Clotilda ‘monumental discovery’
From the article by Howard Koplowitz on

The U.S. Senate on Thursday, Feb. 27 passed a resolution calling the discovery of the Clotilda – the last known slave ship that was found off Mobile — a “monumental” find “of local, national, and international importance and educational value.”

Alabama’s two U.S. Senators – Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Richard Shelby – introduced the resolution to recognize the achievement of the discovery of the Clotilda, honor the residents of Africatown and express hope that the find “may serve as an inflection point for meaningful conversation about both past and present injustices.”

The ship was found in April 2018 near Twelve-Mile Island in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, with confirmation that the vessel was indeed the Clotilda in May 2019. reporter Ben Raines was credited with helping find the slave ship.

The Clotilda, captained by shipbuilder William Foster, sailed into Mobile Bay with 110 African men, women, and children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 23 on board, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. The ship illegally transported 110 people from Benin in Africa to Mobile from February to July 1860.

“After their secret arrival — in 1820 the introduction of Africans was declared an act of piracy punishable by death — about 25 young people were sold upriver to slave brokers, but the majority remained in Mobile. Thirty-two became the property of Timothy Meaher, who had financed the expedition, and his brother James enslaved eight others, including Cudjo Lewis; twenty were sent to Burns Meaher’s plantation in Clarke County; between five and eight went to William Foster as payment for the trip; and others were bought by plantation owner Thomas Buford. The young Africans were employed as deckhands, field hands, and domestics,” the entry continues.

The Africans spent the next five years as slaves during the American civil war, freed only after the South had lost the conflict. Unable to return home to Africa, about 30 of them used money earned working in fields, homes and vessels to purchase land from the Meaher family and settle in a community still known to this day as Africatown.

“By passing this resolution, the United States Senate has recognized the monumental significance of the Clotilda and the resilience of its descendants,” Jones said in a joint statement with Shelby. “It is my sincere hope that we can use this an as an opportunity to further educate our society and to have meaningful conversations about racial injustice and how to continue moving our state forward.”

“I am pleased that we are taking the proper steps to memorialize the recent discovery of the Clotilda in the Mobile River,” Shelby said. “This remarkable site – which has been preserved by local residents, historians, and scientists – represents and honors the heritage and many unique traditions of the historic Africatown community. Further, the efforts to maintain and protect the Clotilda will provide important educational value and opportunities for years to come.”

For the complete article please see

Nearly 90 percent of U.S. travelers have yet to cancel plans due to virus
From the article by Seth Borko on

Skift Research is taking the temperature of American travelers in this time of growing concerns over the coronavirus. For now most travelers are in a wait-and-see mode, with few canceling plans. But that could change rapidly as more COVID-19 cases are reported in the United States.

In a straw poll of the U.S. online adult population conducted from Feb. 27–29, we reached 377 Americans who had previously booked travel plans. Of that traveling population, 12 percent had canceled due to concerns around coronavirus. Which means, of course, that 88 percent — almost nine in 10 American travelers — have not canceled trips due to coronavirus.

What helps explain this resilient outlook? Well, for starters, the typical American books his or her leisure flights two to three months in advance. The hotel booking window is shorter, 26 days per Kalibri labs. So most Americans today are probably considering a spring or summer trip and have yet to book accommodations. Under those circumstances, most are, reasonably enough, taking a wait-and-see approach.

Secondly, the vast majority of American trips take place domestically. All told, Americans made up less than 10 percent of international outbound trips worldwide in 2019. And when Americans do travel abroad, most trips are to neighboring Canada and Mexico. With few coronavirus cases in North America so far, there is little pressing need to cancel immediately, furthering the patient approach taken by U.S. travelers thus far.

Our survey results seem to back this second thesis up. Those with international plans have been canceling forward travel at nearly twice the rate of those with domestic itineraries. Forty-six percent of cancellations reported to us were for international travel versus 24 percent of cancellations for domestic travel. If you factor in those planning both domestic and international travels, fully 76 percent of U.S. coronavirus cancellations in our survey involved an international component.

Now our sample size for this breakdown is getting pretty small, so take these numbers as a directional gut check, not as precise figures. But this trend is also backed up by data from ForwardKeys, which shows that while American outbound bookings have fallen in the last few weeks compared to this same time last year, the vast majority of that drop comes from travel to the Asia-Pacific region.

Yes, the data is a slightly different metric — forward booking changes rather than cancellations — and it stops before the worst of the Italian outbreak — which would no doubt impact the European figures. But overall, we think it reinforces our story of patience from American travelers and a desire to maintain travel plans as long as the virus remains contained outside of their vacation destinations.

Thus far, consider us impressed with the level-headed attitude most American travelers appear to have taken. But this could, of course, change on a dime.

A look at Chinese domestic air travel data from ARC shows that cancellations spiked in the course of just a few weeks. Refunded air tickets were 45 percent higher in the third week of 2020, compared to the same time frame in 2019. That’s already not great, but by the fifth week of the year, Chinese domestic tickets were being refunded at 5.7x the rate of 2019. Chinese domestic scheduled flight departures in January were down 50 percent from the prior year, according to Cirium data.

So where do we stand today in America? Americans are canceling travel to Asia and other affected international destinations but have been hesitant to back out of other plans, particularly domestic itineraries.

We can’t help but be a little proud of our fellow American travelers. After all, fear of the thing can often do more harm than the thing itself.

But Jay Shabat, senior analyst at Skift Airline Weekly, points out that JetBlue last Wednesday waived all change and cancellation fees for customers who book tickets in the next few weeks for travel through the early summer. JetBlue has no flights to Asia or Europe. That this almost entirely domestic airline is bracing for a wave of coronavirus cancellations may be a sign of the times. And the Chinese data cautions us that travel cancellations can start slowly but rise precipitously.

Americans continue to wait and see what will happen with coronavirus. Few have canceled their travel so far, but with COVID-19 now spreading across the U.S., we will soon be seeing the effects of the virus up close. Cancellation patterns could soon change. For now, coronavirus’ bark has been worse than its bite within the U.S

For the complete article please see

Alabama chefs, restaurants, bar among James Beard semifinalists
From the article by Bob Carlton on

Three Alabama chefs, two restaurants and a cocktail bar have made the list of semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards.

The James Beard Foundation announced its restaurant and chef semifinalists this morning.

Automatic Seafood and Oysters, which chef Adam Evans opened in Birmingham last April, is one of 20 semifinalists for Best New Restaurant.

Three Alabama chefs are among the semifinalists for Best Chef: South. They are:
Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, who is a five-time semifinalist.

Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, a semifinalist for the fourth consecutive year.

Duane Nutter of Southern National in Mobile, who is a first-time semifinalist for the chef award. In 2018, Southern National was a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.

Also, Chez Fonfon in Birmingham is a first-time semifinalist for Outstanding Hospitality.

Meanwhile, The Atomic Lounge in Birmingham is a semifinalist for the third year in a row for outstanding bar program.

In addition, former Birmingham resident Hannah Black and her culinary partner Carla Perez-Gallardo of Lil’ Deb’s Oasis in Hudson, N.Y., are semifinalists for Best Chef: New York State. Black, who is a semifinalist for the second year in a row, previously worked at Satterfield’s Restaurant in Vestavia Hills.

Each category includes 20 semifinalists, and the field will be narrowed to five finalists on March 25.

The James Beard Awards are often called “the Oscars of the food world,” and this year’s winners will be announced at the 30th annual awards ceremony on May 4 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Previous James Beard Award winners from Alabama include:
Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, most outstanding restaurant, 2018.
Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, most outstanding pastry chef, 2018.
Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, Best Chef: South, 2012.
The Bright Star, Bessemer, America’s Classic winner, 2010.
Frank Stitt, Highlands Bar and Grill, Best Chef: Southeast, 2001.

For the complete article please see

Alabama film industry set for blockbuster year after record 2019
From the article by Jerry Underwood on

The cameras are rolling on a golden period for film activity in Alabama, which is generating a record level of production expenditures while creating jobs and elevating the state’s profile in the industry.

The Alabama Film Office reported 20 film and TV productions qualified for state incentives in 2019 and spent nearly $72 million while in Alabama, up from $63.5 million during the previous year.

In addition, rebates approved to offset production costs totaled just under the ceiling of $20 million last year, eclipsing the previous record of $19 million set in 2018.

Kathy Faulk of the Alabama Film Office said 2020 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year as well.

Since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, more than a dozen entertainment productions have qualified for tax rebates to film in Alabama, Faulk said.

“With the increasing popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Studios, Disney+, HBO Max, CBS Access and Apple TV+, there is a growing demand for original filmed content,” Faulk said.

Faulk said the escalating level of production spending in the state has created thousands of jobs the past few years.
In 2012, for example, expenditures by qualified productions in Alabama totaled $33.5 million, less than half today’s level.

“Film productions have a huge economic impact when they come to a community. Many local behind-the-scenes crew, such as carpenters, electricians, painters, technicians, make-up artists and extras are hired. Creating jobs is what this is all about,” Faulk said.

“A production will use local businesses such as catering services and equipment rentals. They also rent office space, homes, buildings, public and private property, etc., for locations. Cast and crew also fill up area hotels and neighborhood restaurants,” she said.

Two movies are now being filmed in Alabama, and another is on the way.

“Lansky,” being shot in Mobile, stars Harvey Keitel as the notorious mobster Meyer Lansky and features Australian actor Sam Worthington, who appeared in “Avatar.” In Birmingham, director Dolph Lundgren, who also stars, is filming “Castle Falls.”

An Amazon Studios production, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” begins shooting in late February in Fairhope and Mobile. Leading the cast are Kathryn Newton (“Big Little Lies”) and Kyle Allen (“American Horror Story”).

Economic impact
Brian Jones, also with the Alabama Film Office, said the state often sees lasting economic dividends from films beyond just the jobs they provide while shooting in Alabama.

“A major motion picture such as ‘Just Mercy’ will attract thousands of visitors to Montgomery’s civil rights sites, much like the music documentary ‘Muscle Shoals’ attracts visitors to the Shoals area,” Jones said.

“These movies will continue to impact the state’s tourism industry for years to come as new audiences watch them on video, streaming services and cable networks.”

“Just Mercy,” starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, was partially filmed in and around Montgomery beginning in August 2018. The Warner Bros. production recounts the true story of how attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Jordan) cleared inmate Walter McMillian (Foxx), who was wrongly convicted of murder.

The film entered wide release at theaters in January and has earned critical praise.

Anticipated releases
Meanwhile, movies filmed in Alabama during 2019 will soon make their debuts.

One of them, “I Still Believe,” had a private screening earlier this month in Mobile, where it was shot. Distributor Lionsgate has set widespread release for March 13, and it will become the first faith-based movie to play in IMAX theaters, beginning March 11.

“I Still Believe” is the fifth film from Birmingham brothers Jon and Andy Erwin to feature Alabama. It depicts the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his journey of love and loss. Stars include Gary Sinise, Shania Twain, KJ Apa (“Riverdale”) and Melissa Roxburgh (“Manifest”).

The Erwins’ previous features include “October Baby,” “Coffee Shop,“ “Mom’s Night Out” and “Woodlawn.”

Another anticipated Alabama-filmed release is “The Devil All the Time,” a Netflix psychological thriller with a cast that includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, Mia Wasikowska and Eliza Scanlon.

“The Devil All the Time” is described as a Midwestern Gothic tale that unfolds over two decades and features a cast of nefarious characters that includes a serial-killer couple, a faith-testing preacher and a corrupt sheriff.

Principal photography took place in locations in and around Birmingham, Anniston and Pell City between February and April 2019.

Television appeal
Faulk said Alabama is also becoming an increasingly popular location for television series productions.

These include “Love and Marriage: Huntsville” for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, “Sweet Home Sextuplets” for TLC (Guntersville) and “The Cowboy Way: Alabama” for INSP (Wiregrass area).

Alabama also boasts the long-running syndicated series “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford,” which films in Mobile and is entering its 22nd season.

The state is popular with the high-profile HGTV channel, which films a number of episodic shows in Alabama. HGTV filmed a full-season series, “Beach Flip,” in Gulf Shores that aired in 2016.

Attractive locations
Faulk said Alabama offers a wide variety of locations for film production crews, with a completely different look from one end of the state to the other, ranging from beaches to mountains and just about everything in between.

“Birmingham and Mobile continue to be our largest draw for film due to their size, diversity of locations and availability of crew. Huntsville also draws a great amount of interest, especially at the Space and Rocket Center,” she said. “Because we have so many beautiful and diverse state parks, they continue to be extremely popular for filming.

“But activity is taking place in many other cities across the state. Last year, we had filming in a wider range of locations, including Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Dothan, Fairhope, Anniston, Jacksonville, Montevallo, Bessemer, McCalla and York,” she said.

The Alabama Film Office is part of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

For the complete article please see

Alabama’s red snapper season to open May 22
From the article by Henry Thornton on

Alabamians angling to catch some red snapper can begin baiting their hooks on May 22 this year, per an announcement from the Alabama Department of Conservation on Monday.

According to the Department, the season will consist of all the four day weekends, Friday through Monday, between May 22 and July 19.

The addition of Mondays to the season is new for 2020. Commissioner Chris Blankenship of the Dept. of Conservation said his team added Monday due to “many requests from anglers who wanted more weekday access.”

Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) called the addition of Mondays “Great News” in a tweet. He added the new law will be “allowing fishermen more time on the water.” Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) praised the decision in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

“Today’s announced 35-day season represents a further step towards building a healthy fishery while allowing our fishermen access to this valuable resource,” said Byrne. “It is rewarding for all of us who fought for state control of our snapper fishery to see another full, flexible state-managed season, and I will keep fighting to protect and continue our progress.”

The season dates announced Monday do not apply to commercial fishermen who get their licenses from the federal government.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources asked anyone planning to go snapper fishing to consider the following reminders:

•Weekends are defined as 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Monday.

•The daily bag limit is two red snapper per person, per day with a minimum size limit of 16 inches total length.

•Anglers over the age of 16 must have an Alabama saltwater fishing license (resident or nonresident, annual or trip), or any Alabama resident angler 65 or older or lifetime saltwater license holder must have a current saltwater angler registration. The saltwater angler registration is free and available at

•All anglers; including residents and non-residents 16 years of age and older, including lifetime license holders, disability license holders and those 65 and older, must have a Gulf Reef Fish Endorsement to fish for or possess any reef fish. The Gulf Reef Fish Endorsement can be purchased online at

•Each vessel landing red snapper is required by law to complete one landing report per vessel trip of their harvested red snapper through Snapper Check prior to removing the fish from the boat or the boat with the fish being removed from the water. All red snapper landed in Alabama are required to be reported regardless of the jurisdiction in which they were caught.?

•Anglers under the age of 16 are not required to be licensed or have saltwater angler registration, but their catch must be included in the landing report.

•A landing report may be submitted through Snapper Check in the Outdoor AL mobile app, which is available from the Apple and Android stores or online at If you have previously downloaded the Pocket Ranger version of the mobile app, please uninstall it and download the current Outdoor AL app. Paper landing reports and drop boxes are also available at select coastal public boat ramps.

For the complete article please see

Local tourism board looking forward to 2020
From the article on

For much of the 20th century, Gadsden was an industrial-heavy town highlighted by rubber, textile and steel production. As those industries began to decline, local leaders began looking for ways to replace the economic impact lost. The local legislative delegation worked on creating a new tourism board to attract new visitors and new money to the city and county. This board has worked hard to develop tourism in Gadsden and Etowah County and looks forward to doing the same in 2020.

In 2009, the Etowah County Tourism Board was created with nine appointments from stakeholders interested in economic growth through tourism. Stakeholders include our four local legislators, the mayor of Gadsden, the Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County, the County Mayors Association, the Etowah County Commission and the local hotel industry.

The board hired a professional and tourism-trained executive director in October of 2009.

The Coosa River and Noccalula Falls Park certainly top the list of tourism assets in Etowah County. The Coosa River touches five communities in the county, and its history is rich in transportation and recreation. Bass fishing tournaments bring thousands of anglers to Etowah County each year. A recent report cited fishing tournaments as a $10,000,000 a-year industry. In 2020 two national tournaments will be added to the Coosa Landing schedule – the Bassmaster Central Open and the FLW Toyota Series.

Noccalula Falls Park, home of the 90-foot Noccalula Falls waterfall, features a petting zoo, campground, pioneer village, botanical gardens, mini-golf, hiking and biking trails, trout fly-fishing and sweeping vistas of the surrounding area.

Downtown Gadsden’s First Friday celebrations bring thousands into town monthly. The event has become so successful it has been emulated in many towns throughout Alabama and the Southeast.

The Summer Concert Series at historic Mort Glosser Amphitheater each summer after First Friday packs the house with music fans.

The World’s Longest Yard Sale takes place each August and draws many thousands of visitors and vendors from across the land.

The tourism board works to bring events to Etowah County as well, such as the Barbarian Challenge. The race has steadily grown in participation and event rights were purchased by the City of Gadsden in 2015. The Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department has produced the event the last five years. Participation is expected to reach more than 2,000 this year, including the Kids’ Challenge, with total attendance of more than 3,500.

Noccalula Falls Park recently finished constructing new multi-use trails bringing the total mileage of the Black Creek Trails to over 13, allowing the park to be considered for mountain bike races.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association will bring a race to the falls in early 2020, with another group bringing a race in Winter 2020.

Art on the Rocks returns after a rebirth in 2019 and joins Smoke on the Falls, Wheels on the Hill and Christmas at the Falls as seminal events.

Fly-fishing for rainbow trout was introduced in November 2019 and has been met with widespread enthusiasm and excitement for Year 2.

After a full year of operation, the Venue at Coosa Landing has proved its worth as an event facility and a more than worthy replacement and upgrade for Convention Hall. With over 25,000 square feet of event and meeting space, The Venue can handle meetings, expos, music and other special events in a contemporary facility. Over 200 events were held in its first year. The facility abuts Riverwalk Park at Coosa Landing and the newly opened Buffalo Wild Wings, which has proven to be a hit with sports fans, boaters and wing-lovers.

The City of Gadsden and Gadsden State Community College recently announced a partnership to create a new sports park on the college’s property on the Coosa River that will create new sports tourism opportunities as well as new recreational assets for local citizens.  Soccer, softball and baseball, a Miracle Field, sand volleyball and a BMX track will be included in the facility.

Work continues on soccer fields in Rainbow City that will cater to local athletes and travel ball opportunities.

The City of Southside is working hard on completing a new boat ramp and park on the Coosa River just north of the Highway 77 bridge that will include a boat ramp, bait shop, rental slips, docks, a roped-off swimming area, picnic tables and a site for a potential restaurant. New fishing tournaments can be attracted to the facility, increasing visits to Etowah County.

The tourism board markets under the doing-business-as name of “Greater Gadsden Area Tourism” to leverage the City of Gadsden’s appeal as a focal point to those not familiar with Etowah County. The board creates a visitors guide, which is distributed throughout the state by the Alabama Tourism Department at its welcome centers, by the Alabama Travel Council in various attractions and hotels throughout the state and in the northern 16 counties by the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. Brochures also are mailed from requests by phone, mail, web and magazine ad fulfillment. Since the visitor guide’s creation, more than 116,000 have been distributed.

The tourism board also has bass fishing, fly fishing, golf, and meeting and event spaces guides available. All the brochures are available for download on the tourism website at

From 2009 through 2018, state lodgings taxes collected in Etowah County have grown 35.8 percent, according the to the Alabama Department of Tourism annual report in 2018. Tourism has a major economic impact and continues to be a vibrant part of Gadsden and Etowah County’s economy.

The 2019-2023 tourism board of directors include Chair Kendall Hamilton, vice-chair Jamey Moore, secretary Nanda Patel, board attorney Christie Knowles, board attorney Emily Mills, board treasurer Todd Hindsman, executive director Hugh A. Stump III, administrative assistant Cheryl Pate and board members Jay Freeman, John Hatley, Harry McLendon, Jeff Overstreet, Joey Statum and Dave Tumlin.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Spring Break season is right around the corner. Alabama is a hot spot for family Spring Break trips — with award-winning restaurants, white-sand beaches, hiking and biking trails, and much more. Update your Partner page and add events to show trip planners what you have to offer. What are you waiting for?

Login and update your Partner account today.



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