Alabama marketing theme something 'You've gotta see'

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama is operating with an increased budget and has come up with a new tourism promotion tag line: "Alabama. Now this you've gotta see."

For fiscal year 2001, which ends in September, the state's tourism promotion budget was bumped up to $3.5 million from $2.5 million last year.

"We have been trying hard to educate both our legislators and the general public that investment in tourism is a good thing," said Mark Berson, director of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel.

He said the state has a 4% visitor lodging tax, of which his unit receives 1%. The rest goes into the state coffer to finance other hospitality segments.

The print and radio campaign, which was launched in March, features what Berson described as the main attractions of Alabama.

"We wanted to come up with something that distinguishes us from the clutter of all the other ads out there. Almost all states claim they are beautiful and use that in their promotion.

"But our tag line, 'Alabama. Now this you've gotta see,' just says it all in my opinion."

He added that the print portion of the campaign focuses on three of the state's prime visitor lures: its Gulf Coast, mountains and history.

"Many potential visitors don't know we have a coast," he said. "But we have 32 miles of sugar-white beach and a mountain range in the northeast part of the state and history and historical sites that span [time] from the Civil War to Civil Rights," Berson said.

According to the executive, this is not a national campaign.

"We are reaching out to the market that is within a 500-mile radius," he said.

"Our research has shown that more than 80% of our visitors are from the neighboring states and within that range. We are the drive-to destination for them."

As for working with sellers of travel, he said, the bureau deals mostly with group business.

"We work a lot with tour operators and can provide them with suggested itineraries and other support material. We do the same for travel agents," he said.

The group market is handled by Frances Smiley, he said, the person who wrote the first state group guide devoted to Alabama's African-American history.

Besides the state's three top tourism charms, there are other attractions.

Last November, the Rosa Parks Museum opened in Montgomery, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville is replacing some exhibits and featuring new Imax films.

For further information, call (800) ALABAMA or access www.touralabama.org.

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