Travel South Recap
by Erin Z. Bass
Those of you who follow Deep South on Facebook and/or Twitter know that I had a whirlwind tour of Alabama last week while attending Travel South USA in Birmingham. The only regional tourism show focused solely on the southern United States, Travel South invites the “Who’s Who” of Southern tourism along with travel writers and media so the two can connect to cover the 187.6 billion dollar industry. Yes, that number is correct, so share it with the next person you encounter who says that tourism is not an important industry for your Southern state.
Since Birmingham was the host city this year, Alabama played the part of gracious host along with Communications Director Edith Parten, who invited me on a pre-trip to the state before the start of Travel South. I had a couple different options and was of course drawn to the “Blues & BBQ” tour, but after thinking more about it, the storytelling, quilting, back roads and small towns on the “Small Town Treasures” tour started calling my name. You’ll have the chance to read many stories coming out of this tour in the coming months, so I won’t go into detail here. I’ll just say how lucky I was to have heard the stories told in a Southern drawl by Linda Vice with Southwest Alabama Tourism (that’s me with her on the right in the photo above), visit the town where Atticus Finch was created (pictured at right is his memorial in front of the courthouse) and meet some of the most inspirational women in a community stuck back in time. And this was all before Travel South even began.
The city of Birmingham had a few tours on hand as well, and I was able to see several landmark sites in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as visit the Civil Rights Institute, a truly outstanding museum (exhibits include the “Colored” water fountain pictured on the left). Evening events were also held at sites around downtown, including the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, McWane Science Center and Birmingham Museum of Art, which boasts the finest collection of Wedgwood china outside of England.
During the show, I had scheduled meetings with the tourism heads from 12 Southern states and was able to find out what they’re excited about and what I need to tell Deep South readers about. It seems to be the year of the “trail” for many states. They’ve realized that travelers like to set out on their own, along backroads and byways, to discover attractions, so states are setting up trails to help them do that. Birmingham has several markers up for its own “Civil Rights Trail” (pictured at right), Tennessee has 15 trails in development, Louisiana is revamping its “Culinary Trail,” and both Georgia and Mississippi are working on literary trails.
Starting in 2011, history buffs can look forward to events in many states surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Be on the lookout for more trails, exhibits, battle re-enactments and opportunities to visit historic sites. Other announcements coming out of Travel South this year include a dolphin exhibit opening in November at the Georgia Aquarium, a big giveaway in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway by the state of Virginia, opening of the South Carolina State Farmers Market in June and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opening in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2012.
So, keep checking our website and stay tuned for more announcements and travel ideas. Whether it’s a quick road trip, girls’ weekend or full-fledged family vacation you’re planning, remember to travel South.