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Selma tourism on the rise

Selma is showing off its big guns — homes, and monuments.

This year more people are coming into the city to take in the historical homes and buildings.

“Our bookings have nearly tripled from last year,” said Afriye We’Kandodis, who does the tour bookings for the National Voting Rights Museum. “This year we had 30 tours booked for June, compared to last June when there were only six bookings.”

The Voting Rights Museum was not the only tourist spot to see a rise from the past year.

Nancy Gant, co-director of Sturdivant Hall, said visitors to that museum were up in comparison to earlier years.

“We have had a lot of people,” said Manera Searcy, co-director of Sturdivant Hall. “They have been coming in from California, Wyoming, Connecticut, just kind of all over the place. When people come in they are making an effort to stop.”

Candace Johnson said that Selma’s Tourism Department had reached out in different ways.

“Last year I went to Mobile to let them know our calendar of events for the next two years,” said Johnson. “A lot of people only knew us for either the bridge or the Civil War things. They didn’t know that we had enough to keep you busy for several days.”

Johnson said the tourism department has used new technology for advertising.

“Our national advertising has reached into new markets,” said Johnson. “We’re not just on the print now. We are doing cable, and Internet and billboards. Using the same money that we had used for a specific market we can reach out to new markets. I think we are beginning to brand Selma.”

Jean Martin, director of the Old Depot Museum, said she believed the oil spill could also be credited with the rise of tourism.

“With the mess in the Gulf, more people have been looking for something different to do,” said Martin. “Some families are choosing to come here.”

Johnson said increased tourism could be a silver lining.

“The oil spill is devastating, and Alabama will pull together to overcome that, but in a way it opens up other parts of Alabama to see. Selma is open and ready to receive any other the visitors here.”