According to the most recent economic impact analysis conducted by the Alabama Tourism Department, travel-related expenditures for Morgan County in 2013 exceeded $160 million dollars and annual state lodging taxes collected in Morgan County garnered over $805,000 dollars. In 2013, the tourism and travel industry within Decatur and Morgan County provided 2,064 direct and indirect jobs for local residents and total travel-related earnings for Morgan County exceeded $50 million. It is important to note that for every $1 in travel-related spending, state government collects five cents and local government collects two cents. Travel is important, as each of the 51,180 households in Morgan County pay $328 less in state and local taxes as a result of tourist spending in Morgan County.
Forrest Keith, DMCCVB’s chairman of the board, also added, “Over the ten year period from 2004 to 2013, tourism expenditures have increased 50 percent in the state of Alabama. Through the efforts of the Decatur-Morgan County CVB staff, board, hospitality industry partners, civic leaders, and our citizens, Decatur and Morgan County are playing a role in this growth.
During the annual breakfast, the Decatur/Morgan County Hospitality Association honored area hotels, industries, and citizens with its annual awards. Based on data submitted from hotels in Decatur, the Top Five Corporate Companies producing the most room nights in Morgan County during 2013 were recognized. Those receiving recognitions were International Paper with 1,843 room nights; 3M with 2,202 room nights; United Launch Alliance with 2,290 room nights; Nucor with 2,939 room nights; and Daikin America with 3,217 room nights.
Acknowledging a special event or festival in Morgan County that has made a great contribution to tourism in the past year, the Event of the Year award went to the River City Rivalry Lacrosse Tournament. Realizing that lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in America, efforts were made to begin marketing the Jack Allen Recreation Complex as a lacrosse venue. The River City Rivalry made its first appearance in 2012 with 20 teams, and in 2013, 50 teams from across the southeastern United States participated in the two-day competition.
Awarded to a person or organization whose body of work has had a significant impact on tourism in the past year, the Good Neighbor Award was presented to Academy Sports and Outdoors. As a strong supporter of local events, Academy Sports and Outdoors has offered a variety of resources included awnings, tents, gift cards, bag chairs and other necessities for use at local tournaments. They have hosted registrations and weigh-in’s at their store and have served as sponsors.
The Tourism Professional of the Year award is presented to the person who has exhibited extraordinary leadership skills and initiative associated with their position. The Tourism Professional of the Year was awarded to Ms. Dana Murphree, general manager of the Quality Inn. Working in the hotel industry, Murphree has performed almost every job imaginable – maintenance, front desk, housekeeping – with a work ethic that brings excellent customer service to all guests visiting. Her hard work has allowed her to move up in her career, starting out in housekeeping to now general manager. She is also a talented artist who has provided personalized artwork to welcome events at her property.
Presented to a person, or persons, within Morgan County who has contributed significantly beyond their professional duty to the development and promotion of tourism for the betterment of Decatur and Morgan County, the 2014 Julian Walker “Mr. Tourism” Award was awarded Roland Langley, owner of Graphics South. Langley worked closely with Julian Walker for whom the award is named, and comes from a family that loved and breathed tourism. Always willing to make time for his clients and projects and sharing creative ideas on a whim, Langley has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years to improve the image of Decatur and Alabama.
The Gilmer Blackburn Legacy Award was created 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 the late Mayor Blackburn who was instrumental in developing the foundation of the tourism industry here. The 2014 Gilmer Blackburn Legacy Award was presented to Mr. Ronnie Dukes. Known for his kindness, generosity and personal integrity, Dukes is active in many community organizations and boards, including board member and past chairman of the board for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With this year’s theme “Tourism in Action”, participants to this year’s Tourism Breakfast were literally seeing tourism in action as Ingalls Harbor and Wheeler Lake play host to the American Bass Anglers Ray Scott Championship. Approximately 200 top weekend bass anglers from throughout the country are in the River City to earn a $100,000 cash prize and a spot in the Bassmaster Classic. “Tourism in Action means big business for Decatur and Morgan County,” said DMCVB President and CEO Melinda Dunn. “Our work to build and strengthen the traveling public’s interest in our attractions, events, festivals, recreational facilities and tournaments is essential to the overall health of our local economy. Tourism in Decatur and Morgan County would not have reached the level it has reached today without the excellent partnerships we enjoy with our tourism industry associates, governmental leaders, city and county departments, the work of the CVB staff and the support and guidance from the CVB board of directors.”
For more information on tourism figures and awards, contact DMCCVB President and CEO Melinda Dunn at 800.524.6181 or 256.350.2028.