Selma hosts Alabama Tourism Welcome Center retreat

Published 7:12 am Saturday, October 23, 2021

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The city of Selma is hosting the Alabama Tourism Department’s Welcome Center Retreat this weekend.

The event starts Sunday and ends on  Tuesday.

The goal for the retreat is to educate front-line employees from all eight state-owned and operated visitor centers on what to see and do in various areas of the state.

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Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said he’s glad to have the statewide treat come to Selma.

“The City of Selma is excited to host the Alabama Welcome Center Retreat,” Perkins said. “This retreat will provide new and innovative ways to attract tourists to our beloved city. We are grateful for this great opportunity.”

Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheryl Smedley said it’s a big deal to host the event. “Securing this retreat is a major win for Selma and Dallas County,” Smedley said. “We will be hosting more than 50 tourism professionals who staff our state’s eight Welcome Centers.

“They assist more than six-million visitors on an annual basis, and these men and women are often the first face encountered by travelers to Alabama. Now they will be able to greet visitors with more first-hand, experiential knowledge of our incredible community.”

Selma City Councilman Clay Carmichael, Becky Youngblood of ArtsRevive, Pam Swannier of Alabama Blackbelt Adventures, Summerlin Hardware, Selma High, Helene Taylor, A.C. Reeves, Charlie Lucas, Victor Shaw, Selma High, Invictus Department, St. James Hotel, Shirley Baird, and BlackBelt Benefit Group were among those who helped boarded up windows with photos and make donations.

“This is a collaboration of many creatives getting together and beautifying an area with what we have to work with,” Carmichael said.

The retreat will feature educational programs, a tourism trade show, guided tours of Selma’s historic sites and the growing downtown arts scene. Opening night will feature a Flavors of Selma and Beyond welcoming dinner held at Gallery 905 Art Studio on Sunday.

“We have been looking forward to Selma hosting our welcome center staffs,” Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell said. “With all of the new developments and the restored hotel reopened, the story of historic Selma is more important for tourists than ever.”

Guided tours during the retreat will focus on Selma’s rich Civil Rights history, including Brown Chapel AME Church, The Jackson Home, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge, National Voting Rights Museum and the Selma to Montgomery Interpretive Trail Center.

The tour will also include a trip to Orrville, including the Orrville’s Farmer’s Market.