Travel and tourism marketing: Alabama tourism focuses on food as a destination

This famous Decatur BBQ joint is one of the featured eateries in the campaign.

In 2005, the Alabama Tourism Department created  “The Year of Alabama Food” campaign to draw attention to Birmingham’s culinary delights.

The campaign proved so successful, that 7 years later, the state’s tourism agency has decided to bring it back.

The $1 million marketing effort will feature the popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die”, an Alabama BBQ Hall of Fame, and an Alabama Restaurant Week.

The campaign will focus on state dining treasures like Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, the original Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile, and dozens of other favorite eateries.

The state decided on this direction because they realized they don’t have beaches or major theme parks to attract tourists.

But local chefs and food trends have attracted visitors from around the region to the state for its great food and chefs.

Fine dining in Birmingham is the jumping off point, but to take the concept statewide, state tourism officials came up with a theme that also highlights country cooking, barbecue and seafood.

Since its inception in 2005, the popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” has become so popular it’s updated annually.

In fact the state distributes 200,000 brochures on the subject through state welcome centers and local chambers of commerce each year.

Many restaurant owners in the state who have made the list proudly display the designation on the windows of their businesses and mention it in their advertising.

The 2012 “Year of Alabama Food” campaign will feature a 30-second TV spot and a website–yearofalabamafood.com –that includes directions to restaurants across these the state.

There’s also a big social media push, with a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog posts from many of Alabama’s top chefs that include recipes of some of their favorite dishes.

The blog will also have a section where visitors can take pictures of and post comments about the places they visited and the dishes they tried.

Throughout the year, “The Year of Alabama Food” will also highlight food festivals and events around the state.

In August, restaurants throughout the state will offer fixed-price lunch and dinner specials during the inaugural Alabama Restaurant Week.

What do you think of Alabama’s efforts to use food as a differentiator? What are you doing to differentiate your travel brand from your competitors?

If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a link to the “100 Alabama dishes” brochure. 

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