“It is an exciting time in coastal Alabama, especially in the tourism industry” said Kristian Aboud, owner of Five Rivers Delta Safaris, at the Delta Roundtable held November 12th, 2014. Mr. Aboud was one of three guest speakers invited to discuss cultural, heritage, and ecotourism throughout the Delta. The speakers also included Michele Archie with the Harbinger Group, Inc. and Linda Vice with Southwest Alabama Tourism and Film Office.
The meeting focused on exploring assets already in existence, potential for further growth, and barriers to such growth within the Delta region. Ms. Archie provided the group an overview of research she is conducting throughout the Delta, emphasizing areas of potential for tourism and predictions on future economic impact. “The Delta is an underleveraged asset” said Ms. Archie, referencing her research. She encouraged the roundtable to decide together what they want to see happen in the Delta in regards to tourism. Depending on how you create, connect, and promote the Delta will determine locally how you shape the tourism industry and who you attract. Ms. Archie also highlighted the importance of having guides and outfitters throughout the Delta as they help visitors understand where they are, what’s special about it, and how to take care of it.
“I like to paint pictures with words” said Ms. Vice at the start of her presentation, and that is exactly what she did. As director of the Southwest Alabama Tourism and Film Office, Ms. Vice’s position focuses on promoting tourism in the northern Delta and upland areas. Her office has developed many tourism opportunities, including the Culinary Trail of Southwest Alabama where visitors get to taste and see Alabama’s rural culture. At the meeting, she told stories about the area dating back into the 1700’s, including the Fort Mims Massacre and the formation of Reform, Alabama. Ms. Vice used these stories to “peak curiosity about the things that are available”, stressing that the cultural aspects are very important when it comes to tourism. She said the key to cultural tourism is to “feed them the food, tell them the stories, and sing them the songs.”
Mr. Aboud expressed that his vision for tourism in the Delta is immersive and sustainable. He discussed that through his own research, he has discovered the four main reasons people travel for vacation: cultural tourism, ecotourism, adventure tourism, and volun-tourism. These four aspects, if truly implemented and explored in the Delta, would guarantee visitors would return to the area year after year. Mr. Aboud also highlighted that inadequate accommodation options is the largest single factor halting sustainable immersive-tourism in Alabama. Improvement in this area would in turn support and encourage tourism enterprises in the Delta. Through his business, Mr. Aboud is exploring options to develop these needed assets in the Delta.
Coastal Alabama Partnership and the Delta Roundtable thank the above speakers for their vision, expertise, and for sparking the group’s curiosity regarding what is possible in the Delta. The group plans to meet throughout 2015, continuing to bring together a diverse set of stakeholders to discuss the future of this important resource.