Advocacy is defined as speaking up and educating elected officials on the issues that matter.
Many elected officials don’t understand that tourism doesn’t just happen. They need to be educated that an effective tourism program requires strong research, creative marketing, and targeted outreach.
Tourism has frequently been an easy target for budget cuts and criticisms of its economic importance, research, and the need for public funding. These attacks are often unexpected. The best way for tourism community leaders to avoid a potential cut to their programs is to develop an advocacy strategy and proactively promote the positive impacts on their community. Waiting until you are facing a crisis is often too late. That is why Alabama Mountain Lakes is committed to advocating the voice of tourism to our elected officials as an ongoing effort.
Southeast Tourism Society members come together in Washington D.C. and, as a state, meet with their elected officials to discuss legislation that could positively or negatively impact their destinations and visitors. Prior to these meetings, STS provides attendees with a list of talking points, and topic-related guest speakers, so attendees have all the tools they need for a successful visit with their elected officials. Alabama Mountain Lakes President/CEO Tami Reist and members of the AMLA Board attend this Summit every year to meet with the Alabama Delegation on matters of importance to the Tourism & Hospitality Industry.
Alabama Mountain Lakes partners with the Alabama Tourism Partnership to takes advantage of every opportunity to meet and become better acquainted with our state officials in Montgomery. Legislative Tourism Bash is one of the ways that Alabama Mountain Lakes works with the ATP to promote Tourism legislative issues to State officials.
Alabama Mountain Lakes takes advantage of every opportunity to meet and become better acquainted with your local officials. Opportunities that develop through professional meetings or local civic or charitable organizations are a great way to educate them about tourism issues.
Alabama Mountain Lakes partners with the Alabama League of Municipalities and the Alabama County Commissioners Associations and attends their annual conferences.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill. Within the ARP, the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund provides $350 billion for states, municipalities, counties, tribes, and territories, including $130 billion for local governments split evenly between municipalities and counties.
For more information on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 please visit the Alabama Leauge of Municipalities Resource page.
Alabama Mountain Lakes is working with local communities to draw tourism business to Opportunity Zones in North Alabama. The Opportunity Zones program is a new alternative economic development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to foster private-sector investments in low-income rural and urban areas. This is a new program with many moving parts.
WHAT ARE OPPORTUNITY ZONES?
The areas eligible for submission as Opportunity Zones are low-income census tracts with a poverty rate of at least 20 percent and a median family income of less than 80 percent of the statewide or area median income. Census tracts are statistical subdivisions of a county established by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each tract averages between 1,200 and 8,000 in population and the nominated tracts vary in size from 199 acres to 235,352 acres.
OPAL’s mission is to:
Educate stakeholders on what Opportunity Zones are and how investments can be structured to work for projects and communities
Source project and capital pipelines
Promote communities (and the projects that could make the biggest difference for those communities) to potential investors
Connect projects to capital, capital to projects, and key institutional supporters to both groups to ensure that deals get done
Track performance of projects within communities to determine whether the program is having its intended effects
Alabama Mountain Lakes takes advantage of every opportunity to partner with neighboring states to promote North Alabama. One way this is done is through a partnership with the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council & TVA.
TRVSC’s purpose is to further the goals of geotourism to sustain and enhance the geographical character of local and regional communities and related public lands as tourism destinations. TRVSC empowers destinations to tell the stories of people and places that instill reverence for landscape and culture, as well as stimulating local economic and community sustainability.
In partnership with TVA & National Geographic, the TRV MapGuide is an interactive online guide for destination information about authentic cultural, heritage, and recreational tourism. The MapGuide features Points of Interest nominated by locals, including: historic, cultural, and natural landmarks; music and arts festivals; outdoor adventures; and more.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS UPDATE
I am pleased to report that the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act today, a bipartisan bill that prioritizes the protection and preservation of our natural parks and public lands. Notably, the legislation secures much needed funds to help address the deferred maintenance backlog facing the National Park Service—a high priority for U.S. Travel.
This is a pivotal time to invest in our national parks, particularly as we work to recover our economy. Funding provided by the Great American Outdoors Act will support an estimated 100,000 jobs, $6.5 billion in labor income and $17.5 billion in economic output per year, as well as contribute $9.6 billion to U.S. GDP.
National parks have always been a consistent driver of economic activity and job creation in communities nationwide: last year alone, spending by more than 327 million visitors delivered $41.7 billion to the economy and supported 340,500 jobs. Recent survey findings indicate Americans are more comfortable traveling by car and engaging in outdoor activities during the country's initial reopening, suggesting that our parks will play an even more important role as we begin to restore travel and rebuild our nation.
We appreciate Senators Gardner (R-CO), Daines (R-MT) and Manchin (D-WV) for their leadership in advancing this bill and are grateful to the many of you who shared directly with your senators and representatives the importance of national parks to your communities.
While this is a positive step forward, we know much more work remains to secure relief, protection and stimulus for our industry—a message we're taking directly to Congress during U.S. Travel's Virtual Hill Week. We will continue to identify all avenues to help revive travel and advocate on behalf of our industry to ensure we are in the best position to help restore our economy and American jobs.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Tori Emerson BarnesExecutive Vice President, Public Affairs and PolicyU.S. Travel Association
Alabama Mountain Lakes partners with many organizations on different advocacy projects and issues. Partners include: