Patti Culp has been singing the praises of Alabama as a destination for travelers for nearly 50 years. As the president and CEO of the Alabama Travel Council, she works closely with the Alabama Department of Tourism and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/State Parks to spread the word about what Alabama has to offer the world. She has been a tireless cheerleader for the tourism industry, serving as the meeting planner for the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, the annual Legislative Reception and the tourism department’s annual Welcome Center Retreat. A Montgomery native, she graduated from Troy University and worked in the insurance and golf tournament industries before returning back to her home to begin her career at the Travel Council in 1977. She has served on countless boards and agencies, including being the first female president of the Alabama Council of Association Executives. She was inducted into the Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame and is currently a commissioner for the USS Alabama Battleship Commission. She spoke with Alabama Living about her job and her favorite state. – Lenore Vickrey
Tell us about the Alabama Travel Council and your role there.
The ATC is a not-for-profit, statewide trade association that promotes tourism and travel to and throughout Alabama. We serve as the industry leader for current and future tourism professionals, creating opportunities for connectivity and collaboration. Our mission statement is to lead and strengthen Alabama tourism efforts through advocacy, education, and promotion on behalf of its members. In addition to being president and CEO of the council, I also manage the Alabama Tourism Partnership (ATP), a consortium of statewide organizations serving as the tourism industry’s legislative voice.
Why is tourism important to our state?
The tourism industry employs more than 238,000 Alabamians and produces more than $22 billion for the state’s economy. This year, we will celebrate the most significant increase in tourism revenue in Alabama’s history. Travelers are realizing the greatness that Alabama has to offer. Suppose the Alabama Department of Tourism, the ATC, the Convention and Visitor Bureaus/Chambers of Commerce, and other state and regional organizations didn’t exist? If that was the case, there is no way these numbers would have reached this magnitude. Alabama tourism industry professionals tell the true story of Alabama. The past is our legacy, and the future is our hope.
How does the council work with state agencies to promote that?
ATC works hand in hand with the Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/State Parks. I have served on the ATD Advisory Board for over 40 years. This position allows me to have input and share the fantastic work that the ATD does to position Alabama as a major player in the industry. In addition, I work with other organizations that promote Alabama by serving on committees and boards (past and present) of the Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Association, Southeast Tourism Society, Alabama Council of Association Executives, Alabama Motorcoach Association, etc.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
No doubt, the people and the travel! My industry partners are my family, and traveling is my passion! It has been a wonderful experience to travel and tell people all over North America how magnificent Sweet Home Alabama is. Our hospitality, variety of outdoor adventures, and unique history are only the beginning of what I share! The fantastic attractions like the USS ALABAMA Battleship; Bellingrath Gardens; the beach; the mountains; the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; Ivy Green, the Birthplace of Helen Keller; the music; Alabama Civil Rights Memorial; and many, many more, are the reasons we can entice travelers to Alabama.
I share all that is wonderful about Alabama with hundreds of tour and travel planners and their clients at regional and national travel exchanges hosted by the National Tour Association and Southeast Tourism Society.
What’s the one thing about Alabama that you want our readers to know and tell their neighbors about?
To share an old tourism theme – Alabama Has It All! If each citizen told their out-of-town family and friends about the beauty; natural diversity; phenomenal history; a remarkable variety of first-class attractions, hotels, and restaurants, and our excellent Southern hospitality, our numbers would continue to soar! Traveling to Alabama assures our visitors a unique and memorable experience they will share with others. It’s a win-win for everyone!ν