Packed house: Hundreds of visitors came to Selma this week for the AISA state track meet at Memorial Stadium.  The stadium will host the AHSAA meet May 3-4. --Robert Hudson
Packed house: Hundreds of visitors came to Selma this week for the AISA state track meet at Memorial Stadium. The stadium will host the AHSAA meet May 3-4. -- Robert Hudson

Leaders call on hospitality industry to be better prepared for influx of visitors

Published 10:02pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

What had been called a meeting to inform those in the hospitality industry of efforts to bring visitors and events to Selma turned into a meeting that had good information but had a disappointing turnout.

While Selma Mayor George Evans wasn’t sure why few hotel operators and no restaurant owners attended the meeting, he was confident the information shared with those at the meeting would produce a strong relationship that could mean big businesses for everyone involved.

“All of the hotels that we have, 13 or 14 roughly, some of those with restaurants as well, and the restaurant owners who benefit from what we are trying to do, would come here and listen and ask questions and offer their suggestions on how we can make things better,” Selma Mayor George Evans said following the meeting. “I am thankful for the ones who did come and share their concerns about making everything better. We need to find ways to get everyone else involved.”

Those hotels noticeably absent from the meeting included representatives from the Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn and the St. James Hotel.

The bulk of the meeting focused on the upcoming events that are bringing large numbers of visitors, including the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A-3A, which will come back to Selma May 3-4.

According to Selma Parks and Recreation director Elton Reese, the meet is expected to bring as many as 1,700 athletes and 400 coaches in addition to family, friends and fans. This is the second year of a three-year contract for Selma to host the state meet and Reese told those at Thursday’s meeting, noting that the level of service afforded those visiting Selma has to be better than the experience many received last year.

“It is my job, the city’s job and the county’s job to bring these events here,” Reese told those at the meeting. “It is your job to ensure they want to come back again.”

Reese said after last year’s state track meet, he and Evans were called to a meeting with state athletic officials where they were presented with a number of letters from coaches and fans that were critical of the lack of hotel rooms and the service they received at local restaurants.

Reese said this year, his department has delivered flyers to hotels and restaurants reminding them that the tournament is coming, so problems such as running out of food won’t happen again.

Evans and Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard both stressed to the hospitality officials the investments made in recent years to bring events to Selma.

Combined, the city and county spend approximately $40,000 to bring the Cabela’s King Kat tournaments to the area, which included last year’s qualifying tournament and year-ending classic event. King Kat will return for another tournament Saturday, April 27.

Sheryl Smedley, director of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, who led Thursday’s meeting, also shared about the marketing efforts in place to share information about Selma throughout the southeast and what the chamber does to promote the number of events going on throughout the year in Selma and Dallas County.

“I have lived in Selma since 1972 … and this is the busiest spring I have ever been a part of in Selma,” Reese, who has been with the city’s parks and recreation department for more than 20 years, told those at the meeting. “So the people are coming to Selma; the question is just how much money do y’all want to make.”

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