Tourism Tuesday July 21, 2020

Alabama is featured in new national tourism virtual trade show

Alabama steers money for preservation of last slave ship

‘Flavors of the Black Belt Trail’ campaign to highlight some of Alabama’s local hidden gems

EJI’s memorial to lynching victims to open for after-dark visits

Civil rights museums within driving distance

Tourism program offers ‘backstage pass’

The Aviation Council of Alabama releases report on economic impact

Historic Oakleigh to reopen Aug. 1 for tours with modified operations

Free Alabama Vacation Guides available

Alabama Tourism Partner Pointer


Alabama is featured in new national tourism virtual trade show
The Alabama Tourism Department, including director Lee Sentell, will be featured Wednesday in the national travel industry’s first virtual trade show, the U.S. Travel Association says.

Since the virus pandemic caused the industry’s annual international trade show to be canceled, the virtual exhibition floor will give group tour operators the chance to visit with suppliers representing cities and states, officials said.

With over 50 domestic suppliers, a virtual exhibit floor, mini-training sessions, breakout sessions and live chat networking opportunities, the All-American Road Show will be unlike any previous virtual experience, officials said.  Participants will find a host of interactive content sessions that include the videos “Into America’s Wild,”by Shaun MacGillivray and Roadtrippin’ – An American Classic.” The virtual trade show is being produced by TravPRO’s mobile events division.

USTA official Malcolm Smith taped interviews with Sentell and Visit California representative Jennifer Montero via a 30-minute video last week to highlight destinations in the two states. Sentell describes road trips as the best way to experience Alabama’s landmark sites featured on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Sentell thanked Southeast Tourism Society president Monica Smith for nominating Alabama to be one of the nation’s two featured destinations in the virtual trade show.

There will be virtual breakout sessions throughout the show. “This is awesome,” said Alabama’s international sales manager Graham Roderick. He will be Alabama’s virtual host during the show. “Usually during this month we are busy following up from appointments held at our summer international trade show and preparing for upcoming sales missions. However, given the current pandemic situation, these events have had to be postponed. We are excited to virtually ‘sit’ down with operators to discuss the new ways travelers can experience Sweet Home Alabama.”

Tour operators will be able to share content with their clients from anywhere and on any device along with mini-training sessions for agents, Roderick said. Also, each exhibitor booth comes with a call-to-action allowing suppliers to share content with consumers directly. More than $3,000 worth of prizes will be given at the event. Roderick said registration is free to all U.S. travel advisors.

To register, visit

Alabama steers money for preservation of last slave ship
From the article by on

Alabama is spending $1 million to preserve the remnants of the last slave ship known to have landed in the United States more than 150 years ago.

The Alabama Historical Commission said Thursday that the money will be used to begin Phase 3 of preservation efforts for the Clotilda. The agency said that will include targeted artifact excavation and an engineering study to evaluate what is needed for site protection as well as the integrity of the riverbed for consideration of erecting a memorial on site.

Legislators included the money in the state budget that takes effect Oct. 1.

“The Clotilda is a priceless and significant artifact very much deserving of our respect and remembrance,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement released by the agency.

The schooner named the Clotilda was sailed to West Africa in 1860 after a wealthy businessman wagered he could bring a shipload of people from Africa to the United States in defiance of laws against slave importation. The ship was burned in a bayou in 1860 to hide evidence of the crime.

After the Civil War, the freed captives settled in a community called Africatown where some of their descendants still live.

“With the confirmation of the vessel, there is no denying the brutality they suffered, and the reality of how they survived and built a community in Alabama in spite of all the things they endured,” state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile said.

The remains of the ship were discovered in 2019. A federal judge granted ownership of the Clotilda shipwreck to the Alabama Historical Commission.

For the complete article please see 21df034834458d5a318fc856b529c64a

‘Flavors of the Black Belt Trail’ campaign to highlight some of Alabama’s local hidden gems
From the article by Sean Ross on

Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA) on Thursday announced the “Feed Your Adventure — Flavors of the Black Belt Trail” campaign.

A release explained that the campaign features nine themed trails which feature “a bounty of cold drinks, good eats, and back road treats created by the locals across the Black Belt.”

The full brochure and individual trail maps with additional information can be found online here.

“For me, and so many others, the Black Belt of Alabama is home,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. “Alabama Black Belt Adventures’ Flavors Trail is the perfect way to highlight the local specialty food creations, small business owners, cultural attractions and historical sites that make the Black Belt region of Alabama a truly special place.”

Each color-coded trail includes a shopping checklist where travelers can procure tasty treats as well as lists of the numerous uniquely Black Belt destinations, eateries and overnight accommodations across the 23-county region.

State tourism director Lee Sentell commented, “Alabama has had great success spotlighting the culinary items featured in the ‘100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.’ Just like the local creations featured in Flavors, many of the ingredients that make up those recipes are grown and crafted in this region which takes great pride in the rich family history of recipes and agriculture skills passed down for generations.”

The Black Belt includes Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox Counties.

“We could not be more excited about this new collaborative effort with regional partners to highlight the amazing creations of foodstuffs and refreshments found within the Black Belt,” stated ALBBAA director Pam Swanner. “The people in the region sure know how to produce delectable goodies, and we know that you’ll feel right at home as you responsibly venture along these trails exploring all this region has to offer. We invite you to come hungry on your back road tours across the Black Belt!”

Along the way, Black Belt adventurers are also encouraged to participate in a fun passport competition and monthly photo contests.

Utilizing the passport, those who visit all nine trails will be entered for a grand prize weekend getaway at Lakepoint State Park that includes a guided fishing trip by Gone Fishing with Tony and a guided canoe or kayak aquatic eco-tour.

For the complete article please see

EJI’s memorial to lynching victims to open for after-dark visits
From the article by Mike Cason on

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, a visually powerful memorial to thousands of Black victims of terror lynching, can soon be experienced at night.

Beginning Wednesday, the Equal Justice Initiative will open the memorial to visitors from 9 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday each week. It is free.

“I just think there’s something about the weight of this history and tragedy of this whole era that’s particularly poignant when you experience it at night,” EJI founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson said. “So much of this violence was done under darkness.

“We’ve had our staff out here at night and they’ve contrasted the experience between day and night. And I think most of us feel like there’s something really powerful and important about going through the space when it’s quiet and dark.”

EJI is a nonprofit organization that promotes racial justice and criminal justice reforms and represents people it believes have been wrongly convicted or sentenced.

Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy,” which recounts his battle to win the exoneration of Alabama death row inmate Walter McMillian in 1993, was adopted for a movie released in JanuaryThe film, starring Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as McMillian, has streamed on Amazon Prime. Stevenson said EJI has received thousands of emails and inquiries because of the movie, which he said moves to Netflix next month.

EJI opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in April 2018. The debut of the memorial and the companion Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, drew national media attention.

EJI says more than 750,000 people have visited the memorial and museum, which helped create a surge of tourism in Montgomery until the pandemic forced both to close in March. The Alabama Tourism Department named the memorial and museum the Attraction of the Year in 2019.

More recently, EJI has added the Peace and Justice Memorial Center, which includes a 350-seat theater and gift shop, and the Legacy Pavilion, with a cafeteria, gift shop, and coffee shop.

The museum and the Legacy Pavilion remain closed because of the pandemic.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is outdoors, reopened on June 24. It covers six acres on a hill overlooking downtown Montgomery. Stevenson said several hundred people a day have toured since it reopened. Plans to open the memorial after dark were in the works before the pandemic.

“There’s parts of the memorial that were so powerful with the lighting, and we knew we needed to add more lights to make it kind of an experience,” Stevenson said. “So, we had been working for the last several months. We had always planned to open it up at night in the summer, particularly because the heat in the late afternoon can be challenging to some folks. So, the one upside to this pandemic is that we’ve had time to really kind of advance that work.”

The memorial carries the names of more than 4,000 men, women, and children who died from acts of racial terror that occurred from the the 1870s to the 1950s. Their names are engraved on about 800 steel monuments, one for each county where a lynching was documented. Visitors entering the memorial first see the rows and rows of the hanging, six-foot slabs from a distance as they pass a sculpture of an enslaved family in chains and informational panels describing how terror lynching took root as a way to enforce white supremacy after the Civil War and for decades into the 20th century.

When visitors reach the pavilion atop the hill, they face the rust-colored steel monuments at eye level. But as they move to the main section of the pavilion, the plank floor slopes downward, causing the monuments to gradually rise above the heads of visitors as they walk through.

EJI gave media members a preview of the nighttime tours Thursday night.

After dark, the soft lighting makes the memorial easy to safely navigate on foot and the steel monuments are partially illuminated from below. But the limited lighting leaves plenty of shadows that make the tour an after-dark experience, with stars overhead and the summer hum of insects.

Nighttime visitors to the memorial will receive a finger flashlight to help explore, illuminate the names and informational panels, and see the evocative sculptures that are in partial darkness.

“The sculptures really have a different power when you see them sort of in shadow,” Stevenson said. “You get a sense of not fully appreciating all that’s there. We give people the finger lights because that just means you just have to kind of discover things. So when you come here, you can read the names. So that way you can kind of explore a little bit more. It’s a little bit more of a journey, a discovery, than in the daytime. And we think that’s an important part of how this should work.”

For the complete article please see

Civil rights museums within driving distance
From the article by Chris Chamberlin on

Editor’s note: The article lists the cities of Memphis, Jackson and Montgomery. We focused on Montgomery. Locations or attractions mentioned in this article may have altered hours of operation or be temporarily closed. Please contact them before planning a visit.

As Americans continue to address long-term problems of social injustice, many people seek out the context of history to reveal how these are by no means new phenomena. Discussing these issues with your children can be especially uncomfortable, as youngsters generally don’t have a sense of the history of racial issues, especially here in the South where so many of the most historic struggles against inequality have taken place.

Fortunately, the region has not attempted to completely conceal the often shameful history that surrounds the civil rights struggles of the 1960s that occurred right here in their own proverbial backyards. Some of the most compelling stories of powerful and meaningful actions against oppression took place in major Southern cities, and there are important memorials and museums dedicated to civil rights scattered across the Southern states.

If you’re ready for a road trip and looking for a way to help educate your children and give them some important historical context into the national discussion that will ultimately be part of their own future, here’s an itinerary that can be undertaken as a three-day weekend tour of major civil rights landmarks in three Southern cities that were right in the midst of the struggle: Memphis, TN; Jackson, MS; and Montgomery, AL. Whichever city you choose as a starting point for your expedition through history, they’re all located within a triangle with no more than a three- to four-hour drive between them, so you can spend the day visiting museums, grab a meal, and travel to your next site. To help out, we’ve also included a hotel of historical significance in each town and a couple of Black-owned restaurants where you might choose to contribute some of your spending money during your trip.

Montgomery, AL
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in December of 1955, Montgomery cemented itself as an important birthplace of the civil rights movement. The ensuing boycott of the city’s buses by Black riders finally ended a year later when the Supreme Court upheld a decision that this sort of segregation was illegal, a landmark early ruling in the battle for equal rights. The capital of Alabama was also the site of numerous student sit-ins, the site of ugly police interactions with Freedom Riders seeking to test the laws governing desegregation on interstate bus travel and other violent clashes between protesters and police during the 1960s.

Montgomery is home to several important sites along the US Civil Rights Trail that share stories of the ongoing struggle in the city and the state. Troy University operates the Rosa Parks Museum at the location where Parks was famously arrested. Historic markers on the street show where she boarded the bus to begin her ride into history, and the museum houses artifacts from her life and the era, including a reconstructed city bus like the one she was riding. Exhibits tell the story of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to found during the boycott, and an attached library is a repository of scholarly research about the civil rights movement through history.

A dramatic Civil Rights Memorial designed by Maya Lin, the same artist behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is situated downtown across from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s office building. A striking black granite circular table is inscribed with the names of those who gave their lives as part of the struggle for civil rights, radiating out from the center of the monument like the hours on a clock. A sheen of water flows across the surface of the granite, echoing MLK’s pronouncement that “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Of all the monuments in Montgomery, none is more powerful and emotional than The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Opened to the public in 2018, the somber six-acre site sits alone in the middle of a field with more than 800 steel rectangles, the size and shape of coffins, hanging from the ceiling, each inscribed with the names of victims of racial violence and lynching in the United States. Each display also lists the state and county where the tragedies took place, revealing the breadth and reach of violent racism throughout the years, and almost 4,400 victims are listed as part of the exhibit.

The experience of seeing the representation of so much violence can be immensely sad, and the adjacent Legacy Museum attempts to put the jarring memorial within the context of the larger history of racial inequality and economic injustice in the United States. It’s a difficult and painful journey toward understanding the history of the South and its role in the struggle for civil rights, but it’s an important sojourn to make as we seek to come to grips with centuries of inequities and the demands for societal change that are ringing through the streets of America today.

For the complete article please see

Tourism program offers ‘backstage pass’
From the article by Bernie Delinski on

A new program designed to help promote the Shoals’ rich music heritage will provide a “backstage pass” to six local music venues.

Florence-Lauderdale Tourism officials on Wednesday announced “Muscle Shoals Backstage Pass,” which allows participants to get customized stickers when they visit any of the venues by the end of the year.

After visiting three locations, each participant receives a free T-shirt, and anyone who visits all six is eligible for a grand prize to be announced later, said Rob Carnegie, CEO of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism.

The locations include Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, FAME Studios, Cypress Moon Studios, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, W.C. Handy Home and Museum and Swampers Bar and Grille.

The passes are available at the Florence-Lauderdale Visitor Center, Muscle Shoals Sound and the hall of fame.

Carnegie said the program is an effort to boost local tourism, which like many industries has been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our studios are known worldwide, and the music recorded here has made the soundtracks and playlists of millions,” he said. “This is part of our recovery plan, but we hope this campaign will be around a long time to help visitors navigate our music attractions and stay longer in the Shoals.”

The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and Alabama Music Hall of Fame sponsor the program.

“We’re thrilled and very excited to see this project come to fruition, and I can’t wait to see everyone out there enjoying themselves in the studios,” said Carolyn Barske Crawford, director of the heritage area.

Hall of Fame Executive Director Sandra Burroughs said this is the type of collaboration that is important, especially during these times.

“This COVID situation will pass, but until then we need to remain relevant in searches for tourist destinations and that’s what this backstage program is going to do for us,” Burroughs said.

“Smaller towns, smaller venues and smaller attractions are actually going to receive the majority of visitors right now. People are actually looking for the road less traveled and definitely areas less traveled.

“I hope this is the beginning of many more programs we do together in the Shoals area to keep the Shoals area in the thoughts and plans of those traveling,” Burroughs said.

For the complete article please see

The Aviation Council of Alabama releases report on economic impact
From the article on

The economic impact of U.S. airports in 2017 amounted to $1.4 trillion in value of goods and services produced (output), $428 billion in earnings, and 11.5 million jobs according to the Airports Council International (ACI) of North America. They state that, “airports are not just the gateways for their communities but are vital contributors to the health of the American economy.

With the release of Dr. Keivan Deravi’s report on the economic impact of Alabama’s six major commercial service airports, The Aviation Council of Alabama demonstrates that not only nationally, but inside Alabama, airports are more than runways and terminals. Airports are powerful engines of economic growth and they are one of the most fundamental components of business infrastructures, because they facilitate continuous economic growth for contiguous economic regions. Airports also provide both economic benefits and economic impacts for their respective regions.

Economic impacts are typically measured in terms of the additional employment and earnings for the community that are directly attributable to the airport’s business and aviation operations. The economic benefits, on the other hand, are measured in terms of transportation efficiency, or more specifically, the dollar value of time and resources saved. The transportation benefits of airports can include safety, convenience, access, and time savings.

Currently there are 76 airports in Alabama. Six of the airport are commercial, and 70 are general aviation facilities. The purpose of the “Economic Impact of Alabama’s Six Major Commercial Service Airports” report is to provide an estimate of the economic impact for Alabama’s six commercial service aviation facilities. More specifically, this report looks at the economic impacts of Birmingham-Shuttleworth International, Huntsville International- Carl T Jones Field, Mobile Regional, Montgomery Regional (Dannelly Field), Dothan Regional, and Northwest Alabama Regional airports.

“Airports across the state of Alabama have been critically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Todd Storey, Aviation Council of Alabama President. “The passage of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was an important step toward delivering broad-based relief across the aviation industry, however, the relief is only temporary. This report shows that it is imperative that air travel regains momentum and that organizations return to the sky as a part of conducting business. This is because if they do not it will be detrimental to not only aviation and the airports, but also to the local community and national economic recovery as a whole. The importance of air travel to the overall national economic recovery was also recently stressed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a segment discussing economic models during the pandemic.”

Dr. Deravi’s report estimates that the total spending (output) impact of the Alabama airports on the state’s economy amounted to approximately $5.0 billion in 2019. It is also estimated that approximately $1.7 billion of this total economic impact is solely due to the aviation and aviation related activities. Furthermore, the total employment and payroll impact attributable to Alabama airports is approximately 69,200 direct and indirect jobs and over $2.6 billion of additional payroll to the economy of the state. The report found that direct total employment of the airports (aviation and aviation related entities) is estimated to amount to 16,200 jobs (on a full-time equivalent basis in 2019) and that the payroll of the entire on-site business operation is estimated to be $705.5 million.

These six Alabama commercial service airports and their auxiliary businesses collectively add a total of $948.1 million to the State’s economy in the form of non-payroll business transactions. In summary, the airports are directly (not counting tourist spending and the induced and indirect impacts at any level) responsible for a total employment of 16,200 individuals and a total direct addition of $1.6 billion to the State’s economy.

“The Aviation Council of Alabama serves as a unified voice for Alabama’s airports”, said Rick Tucker, ACA Legislative Committee Chair/Huntsville International Airport CEO. “This report illustrates the impact of Alabama’s six major commercial service airports on the state’s economy. For every $1 investment in these airport core businesses it can generate $5 of additional income for the local community and state of Alabama. It validates the need for continued development, expansion and improvement to Alabama airports in order for them to meet the needs of tomorrow’s business environment so that they will continue to substantially impact Alabama’s economy.”

For the complete article please see

Historic Oakleigh to reopen Aug. 1 for tours with modified operations
From the article by Lily Jackson on

The Historic Oakleigh House Museum, positioned in Mobile’s canopied Oakleigh Garden District, will reopen for tours at the start of August.

The tours will have a new look and feel, though. In response to COVID-19, the museum is now requiring masks, online reservations ahead of time and limiting the tour group size, according to the website. The museum has been closed since March 15, because of a lack of funding during the pandemic.

The Oakleigh House was originally built by a Virginian cotton broker, James W. Roper in 1833. It is one of the rarest examples of Greek revival architecture in the country. Visitors can view over 1,000 artifacts that interpret life in Mobile between 1830-1900 in the museum.

For the complete article please see oakleigh-historic-to-reopen-aug-1-for-tours-with-modified-operations.html

Free Alabama Vacation Guides available
Does your attraction, hotel or tourism organization need more copies of the 2020 Alabama Vacation Guide?

The more-than-200-page guide, which focuses on sites and attractions throughout the state, is free. Just send an email to that includes your name or your organizations name, address and how many copies you are requesting.

Since it will be delivered through UPS, you must list a street address rather than a P.O. address. Please include your phone number and email address in case there are questions.

The Alabama Vacation Guide can be mailed individually or in cases that hold 27 each.  Organizations involved with tourism can order up to four cases initially and reorder more if needed.

“The 2020 Vacation Guide focuses on Alabama’s natural wonders and trails for hiking, caving, paddling, bird-watching and just enjoying the state’s spectacular wealth of nature,” said Rick Harmon, the publication’s editor with the Alabama Tourism Department.

“It also includes almost everything else you’d like to do in the state from its top restaurants, hotels, golf courses and attractions, and has some of the most gorgeous photography of Alabama that you will see this year.”

Besides profiles of top destinations in every part of the state, the 2020 Vacation Guide contains calendars of Alabama’s top festivals and events and listings for everything from hotels, resorts, condos, bed & breakfasts to RV resorts.

Alabama Tourism Partner Pointer

Are you a food and/or beverage service? Be sure you have your location listing updated and ready for Alabama Restaurant Week, August 14-23.

For more information about this year’s event and changes that have been made to accommodate current circumstances, visit

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.

For more information contact Dwayne O’Riley at: