Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sentell, Bailey honored during DMCCVB Annual Tourism Awards Breakfast

Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell and Decatur tourism icon Squee Bailey were two of those honored by the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCCVB) and the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association (DMCHA) during the annual Tourism Breakfast and Awards Program here on Thursday at the Holiday Inn and Suites.
3M was recognized by the Hospitality Association as the 2011 Top Corporate Award Winner for generating 4,159 hotel room nights in the Decatur area during the past year.
SoulStock received the Event of the Year Award,
theUniversity of Alabama-Huntsville Charger Chillout Softball Tournament was named “The Good Neighbor” of tourism winner, and Country Inn and Suites Sales Director Anthony Viator was named the Young Professional of the Year.

A new African-American heritage video produced by the DMCCVB entitled “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was also debued at the meeting and a new :30 second commercial promoting the Year of Alabama Food that includes Decatur’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q was also shown.
“The tourism and travel industry generates more than $161 million for our local economy and provides jobs for over 2,400 residents,” said DMCCVB President Tami Reist. “The annual breakfast is an opportunity for us to provide information on the marketing programs the Bureau is utilizing to develop the local industry and to recognize those businesses and individuals who have made vital contributions to Morgan County’s tourism and travel industry.”

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau is a not-for-profit organization promoting tourism and economic growth in Morgan County. The Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association works to promote a better understanding of the hospitality industry, to represent the interests of the industry, and to promote good fellowship and free exchange of ideas. Members of the Association include hotels, restaurants, shopping venues, attractions, and festivals.
The Gilmer Blackburn Legacy Award was created last year as a means of recognizing an individual who has shown a long lasting and permanent contribution to the industry over the years and has helped change the tourism landscape of Morgan County. It is named in honor of of the late Mayor Blackburn who was instrumental in developing the foundation of the tourism industry here.
As the first recipient of the Blackburn Legacy Award, Sentell is considered one of the most respected tourism professionals in the state of Alabama and the Southeast. Before working professionally in the tourism industry, he worked for 12 years as a reporter, business editor and later city editor at the Decatur Daily. He was the first paid touris staff member ever hired by the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, which led to the establishment of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau. He was inducted into the Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame in 2000 and has served as president of the Alabama Travel Council and as chairman of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel Advisory Board.

Sentell was appointed by Gov. Bob Riley in 2003 to serve as the Director of the Alabama Tourism Department and under his skilled leadership, the Alabama Tourism Department won several awards for its marketing campaigns from the Travel Industry Association of America, the National Council of State Tourism Directors and the Public Relations Council. The department has also been named Tourism Organization of the Year for three years in a row by the Southeast Tourism Society, and has won the Odyssey Award for 2008 from Travel Industry Association for the Year of Alabama Arts.
Bailey, honored with the Julian Walker ‘Mr. Tourism” Award, has been involved with the local tourism and travel industry for the past 20 years. She serves as the leader of Decatur’s Saturday Walking Tours, a welcoming guide for tour groups, and was the developer and innovator behind the Familarization Tours for front-line hotel and attraction employees.
Bailey also serves on the Downtown Merchant Committee, on the Old State Bank Board, is a liaison to the Christmas Tour of Homes Committee, and is a past winner of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association Legacy Award.
The Young Professional Award is presented annually in honor of Layna Sorrell, a long time tourism employee who truly had a passion for the tourism industry. The “Young Professional of the Year” is presented to the person who has been in the tourism industry less than seven years and has exhibited extraordinary leadership skills and initiative associated with their position. As this year’s winner, Viator was noted for his enthusiasm, attention to detail and extraordinary efforts he goes through to insure his guests enjoy their stay in Decatur.
The Event of the Year winner, SoulStock, moved to Decatur in 2009 and is a two-day event featuring Christian music and worship. The free admission festival averages more than 20,000 visitors and is sponsored by churches, businesses, and individuals mostly in the surrounding communities. Due to its’ popularity, SoulStock will expand to a three-day event in 2012.
“Good Neighbor” of Tourism winner, the UAH Charger Chillout Softball Tournament, attracts some 22 collegiate teams from eight states to Wilson-Morgan Park for three days of intense competition each February. The Chargers finished Number 2 in the country this year and were also one of five 2011 Easton “Team of the Year” Award Winners.
Other Top 10 Corporate Award winners for room-nights booked in local hotels included: ULA with 4,072 room nights,
Nucor Steel with 3,167 room nights,
TVA with 2,839 room nights,

International Paper-Courtland with 2,825 room nights,Daikin with 1,857 room nights, Wayne Farms with 1,692 room nights, Lockheed Martin with 1,505 room nights, CSA with 1,219 room nights and Alpha Pet with 1,208 room nights.

Among the marketing and development programs instituted by the Convention & Visitors Bureau during this past year included a new Morgan County Outdoor brochure, sales materials for the new Ingalls Harbor Pavilion which opens next month, a new Civil War Geocaching trail and coordinating the docking of the Pickwick Belle Riverboat here this past summer.

For information on special events and attractions in Decatur and Morgan County, contact the DMCCVB at 800.524.6181 or 256.350.2028; or visit its website at

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