Meet Director Lee Sentell
Lee Sentell, reappointed by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2019 as director of the Alabama Tourism Department, has overseen tourism expenditures in the state as they have grown from $6 billion in 2003 to $17 billion in 2019. He is serving in his fifth term in the Alabama Governor’s Cabinet.
Under his leadership, the department has pioneered yearly campaigns spotlighting such diverse themes as small towns, the arts, barbecue, natural wonders and the Alabama Bicentennial celebration, winning the national industry’s coveted Mercury award six times in 12 years. Most recently, their U.S. Civil Rights Trail campaign received the International Travel and Tourism Award for best regional promotion at the World Travel Market in London, becoming the first U.S. state tourism agency to be honored.
Previously, he was the first director of marketing at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and recruited the first 100,000 students to Space Camp. The journalism graduate from Auburn University was city editor at The Decatur Daily before becoming founding director of the Decatur Tourism Bureau.
In related projects, Sentell assisted Monroeville novelist Harper Lee in the launch of her second novel, reopened the closed Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and sponsored the London premiere of the motion picture “Selma.” The Alabama tourism office is working with the National Park Service to nominate a number of civil rights landmarks as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Sentell has served as a board member at the Alabama Historical Commission, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Rosa Parks Museum and the space museum in Huntsville.
A native of Ashland, he launched his book The Official U.S. Civil Rights Trail: What Happened Here Changed the World on June 23, 2021 at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta.