Hotel-conference center on the beach?
August 9, 2011
Push for hotel-conference center on the beach
From the article “Tourism director Lee Sentell wants to see a state-run hotel-conference center on Alabama Gulf Coast” by David Ferrara in the Press-Register:
A focus on reporting the truth about the condition of Alabama’s beaches - whether good or bad - during last summer’s record oil spill helped smooth the way for this year’s recovery, Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, told a crowd of statewide business leaders Monday. “A few people said, ‘You can’t be showing that kind of ugliness,’” Malone said of his group’s series of daily video reports from the beach at the height of the BP disaster. “I said, ‘Why not? It’s real.’” When the beaches were cleaned, a series of music concerts - paid for by BP - helped lure tourists back to the coast. “Using events to get people back pays off in dividends,” Malone told a crowd of about 300 at the Perdido Beach Resort for the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s summer conference. “The word of mouth spreads so rapidly now with social media that if you get people to see what you have, they’re going to spread the word and help you sell it to other people.”
Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell pushed once again for a state-run hotel-conference center at the beach, his speech delivered inside the resort that litigated against such an idea throughout the administration of former Gov. Bob Riley. Sentell said state groups spend as much as $200 million each year on conferences in Destin, Fla., instead of Gulf Shores or Orange Beach. “We have got to change that,” Sentell said to applause. “We have got to have a very nice, large convention center and a nice property that can accommodate the Alabama Medical Association, the Bar Association and others so that we can keep that money here in Alabama.” Afterward, when asked about the likelihood of such a project, Sentell told the Press-Register that the state has “a lot of more-urgent priorities. But Gov. Bentley has made it very clear that this is his No. 1 priority for the tourism industry.” Next year, the EDAA’s summer conference will be held at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Point Clear, said executive director Ron Scott. As the recovery from the oil spill continues, Chris Nelson, vice president of Bon Secour Fisheries Inc., pointed to the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission created earlier this year to promote the industry. He urged the crowd to eat Gulf seafood. “When people don’t come to the Gulf, we miss those sales.” Even with beach tourism rebounding, Malone wasn’t shy about asking for support. He encouraged those visiting from other parts of the state: “While you’re here, spend some money. Please.”
For the complete article please see http://blog.al.com/live/2011/08/director_lee_sentell_wants_to.html.