Beginning this month, Cullman will have a new Tourism Bureau to manage the marketing and tourism for Cullman County. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Garland Gudger, is intended to bring all the government entities together to work cooperatively in selling Cullman County to tourists. It’s an admirable goal, and we hope it lives up to its promise.
This board is needed. Currently, there are multiple entities involved in tourism and their efforts sometimes overlap and don’t have a cohesive look or feel. This new board will bring them all together, with each having equal representation so no one entity has more say than another.
That is important. Cullman’s hotels, the city, county, towns, Chamber of Commerce, retail shops, restaurants and area attractions are all doing their part to attract tourists. This should not be a competition, but a combined effort to make the most of what Cullman has to offer.
Tourism is one of the top 10 industries in Alabama. Last year, amidst a pandemic, tourists spent $13.4 billion dollars in Alabama. In 2019, that number was $17 billion. According to the Alabama Department of Tourism, about 1,000 jobs in Cullman County are related to tourism. That’s big business and deserves a professional approach to data gathering and holistic, strategic marketing.
To begin with, the board members will manage the bureau, but eventually - with hotel tax dollars going to fund it - there will be a director and perhaps other staff support. The Tourism Bureau will be housed at the Chamber, but will not be a part of the Chamber.
Normally, we would question the creation of another layer of government; however, we agree with Sen. Gudger that the bureau and its governing body are needed. Rather than add a layer, they create connections between all the existing players in Cullman’s tourism industry.
Cullman County has a lot going for it: location, Smith Lake, a picturesque downtown, history, great parks throughout the county, a well-run airport, retail shops and restaurants, events and attractions such as the Ave Maria Grotto and Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
We see this new Tourism Bureau as a way to bring them all together and introduce visitors to the Cullman County we love.