Montgomery, AL (WSFA) – Tourism is a big business in Alabama. Just last year, an estimated 21 million people visited our state providing a $3.6 billion dollar economic impact.
And even small towns are getting a piece of that pie.
In Eufaula, tourism is the number one industry. Years ago, the city's major businesses took a hit, so they needed to find something else to pick up the slack.
They didn't have the mountains, or the beaches, but what they did have was history, so that's where they started. Now, more than 700 sites in the city are listed in the National Register.
We caught up with a group of students from Marianna, Florida who came to visit after studying about the architecture featured in some of the old homes. They are among the 15,000 people who come to Eufaula each year to tour these civil war-era homes.
It's a trend playing out in cities and towns all across the state—capitalizing on a town's one-of-a-kind attractions to bring in visitors, and in turn, revenue.
Phil Thomas, President of the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce said, "So many people now-a-days are interested in seeing things that are unique."
Take the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise. It's the world's only monument dedicated to a pest.
Bob Connelly, a tourist from West Virginia, made a special trip to Enterprise just to snap a picture.
He said, "That's what makes traveling around the country so interesting because all these little towns have unique little things that give them character."
Edith Parten, Communications Director for the Alabama Department of Tourism said, "Alabama has so many unique things, different landscapes, different destinations, and attractions that not only shape our state in our nation's history but our international history as well."
This year's state tourism campaign, the "Year of Small Towns and Downtowns" is also bringing attention to Alabama's unique destinations.
It's what some are calling a shift in the way families vacation.
Thomas said, "The old model of mom and dad putting the kids in the station wagon and going to a theme park for two weeks every year is gone. That's not what tourism is anymore. It's weekend trips for two or three days, and following the kids on soccer tournaments and cheerleading camps."
And while they are there, staying a few extra days to discover the unique experiences Alabama has to offer.
It's a source of home grown revenue that's making a huge splash in small town Alabama.
There are several events in that "Year of Small Towns and Downtowns" celebration happening in our area.
You can find those on the Alabama Department of Tourism's website: http://www.alabama.travel/homecoming/