THE WHEEL WORKS
By using a “hub and spoke” approach, tourism in our area operates like a wheel, benefiting each community and the region as a whole and moving them all forward.
Alabama’s capital city is geographically located centrally in the state, making it the ideal home base for regional travel. Montgomery has an economic impact from tourism of $1,351,055 in visitor spending every day, and for the fourth year in a row is leading the state in hotel occupancy.
Montgomery can obviously stand alone as a travel destination, but by widening its efforts to market Montgomery and the River Region to visitors, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau demonstrates a successful “hub and spoke” approach that proves the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By taking a broader view, the CVB widens the lens to provide a more complete picture and a richer experience for visitors.
“When you look at Montgomery’s geographic location, you can stay in Montgomery and by traveling 45 minutes to an hour, you can be in Selma or Tuskegee, which, combined with what we offer here, allows you to see and experience events that changed the world,” said Meg Lewis, Director Brand Development & Special Projects for the Chamber’s Convention & Visitor Bureau. “Plus, there are a number of communities around us that offer other things unique to their area that we don’t have, so it makes sense to include them in our picture.”
Selma, located about 50 miles from Montgomery, is a part of the Civil Rights Trail, and the cities at each end serve as trailheads. The National Park Service manages the Selma to Montgomery national Historic Trail and the Lowndes Interpretive Center. The cities share significant events, including the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. Selma also offers Black History Month tours each February, geared toward students and educators, and hosts annual events to commemorate Bloody Sunday.
Apart from its rich Civil Rights history, Selma is developing tourism activities around its outdoor recreation. Selma is on the Alabama Scenic River Trail, which is part of the National Water Trails System, and is actively working on bike paths not only for tourism, but also for residents who prefer to use bikes for their daily commute and activities.
Additionally, Selma is looking forward to taking an active role in the state’s Bicentennial celebration in 2019. Celebrations have already begun and will continue through Alabama Day, Dec. 14, 2019.
“Selma and Dallas County feature an all-inclusive historical experience,” said Landon Lee Nichols, Jr., Destination/Marketing Coordinator for The Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Information. “In one day, in one location, you can experience a thread of history that weaves together our Native American Heritage, frontier Alabama and early statehood, the Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, our nation’s military superiority, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Movements, adaptive reuse of historic structures and 21st century Alabama.”
Tuskegee is located only about 40 minutes to the northeast of Montgomery and has connections to the capital city related to Civil Rights history, as well as aviation and military history and education. At the Tuskegee History Center, visitors can learn about significant black history events ranging from the Syphilis Study, which used black men as guinea pigs for medical experiments, to significant legal battles at the center of the Civil Rights Movement, and the development of African American aviation.
The Tuskegee Airmen became the first African Americans to be pilots, and they became an elite force helping to ensure an American victory in World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is located in Tuskegee and operated by the National Park Service.
Additionally, Tuskegee is home to Tuskegee University, founded in 1881 as Tuskegee Institute, and today one of the premier Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the nation. Its historic rival, Alabama State University, is located in Montgomery.
PLAY IN PRATTVILLE
Prattville is located just 15 minutes north on I-85. It is the home of Capitol Hill, a part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a dazzling collection of public golf courses in Alabama under the management of the Retirement Systems of Alabama. Capitol Hill boasts three of arguably the most challenging courses on the trail, named with a nod toward Montgomery’s role as the center of state government: The Judge, The Senator, and The Legislator. “People can stay in Montgomery and within a 45-minute drive, they can play Auburn, Prattville and Greenville on the RTJ Trail,” Lewis said.
Patty VanderWal, President of the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce, says the area is developing its reputation as a stop as visitors travel throughout the region. In fact, the Prattville Chamber has established a “Snowbirds Club” for travelers fleeing ice and snow to warm sunshine in the Southern states. Travelers who sign up will receive discounts from area businesses, hotels and attractions.
VanderWal says she sees tourism between Montgomery and Prattville as a two-way street, with each community helping the other. “We’d love it if people come and stay in Prattville and spend all their time with us, but we know there are lots of great things around us. Together, we have a lot to offer,” she said.