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The 2016 Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 22 at the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence. An opening night reception will be held at Cypress Moon Studios in Sheffield on Wednesday, Sept. 21 from 6-8 p.m.
Registration fee for the annual meeting is $75 per person and includes the opening night reception and all events the day of the annual meeting. Registration deadline is Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.
“The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Play List’ which builds on the rich music heritage of The Shoals area while giving us a stage to showcase the marketing hits the North Alabama tourism industry enjoyed during the previous 12 months and the future marketing programs we will release for 2017,” said AMLA President/CEO Tami Reist.
“I encourage all of the region’s tourism professionals to attend the conference. It will be the perfect time to network with your fellow professionals, receive a comprehensive recap of the year, expand their tourism knowledge with an excellent line-up of speakers, and gain insight into what the future holds,” she said.
The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, located at 10 Hightower Place, Florence, has reserved a special block of rooms at a discounted conference rate of $159.00 per night for the event. Call 800-593-6450 by Sept. 5 to reserve your room.
Cypress Moon Studios will host the opening night reception for the annual meeting. The evening event will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 21 from
6-8 p.m.
Included with the live-music performances during the night will be a special performance by Susan Hood, assistant to the Mayor of Decatur, who was inspired to compose a song about North Alabama’s waterfalls after seeing the new waterfalls brochure produced by AMLA.
Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be available during the evening along with an open bar.
Cypress Moon Studios in the former Muscle Shoals Sound Studio building, where such music legends as Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Greg Allman, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Paul Simon have recorded, among many others.

An exciting group of speakers and seminars will be held at the 2016 Annual Meeting. The day’s events will begin at 9 a.m. with welcoming messages from AMLA Chair Thereasa Hulgan, Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock, Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Director Rob Carnegie, and Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell.
Session 1 of the day will be lead by Neville Bhada, founder & CEO of Tourism Skills Group, a company that focuses on the strategic planning, research, and marketing needs of the travel and tourism and association industries.
Tourism Skills Group works with convention and visitor bureaus, chambers, accommodations, attractions, festivals, and other related organizations in developing long range plans through research. TSG concentrates on the research, marketing, communication, and international needs of organizations. Some of the entities Tourism Skills Group works with include The Florida Keys and Key West, Visit Central Florida, Huntsville, Ala., Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Eastern Black Sea of Turkey Tourism Development Authority.
Bhada serves on the boards of the Southeast Festivals and Events Association, Atlanta Metro Travel Association as well as Georgia State University’s School of Hospitality Industry Advisory Board. He speaks domestically as well as internationally on a wide variety of tourism topics – from international tourism to defending budgets.
Bhada is from Atlanta. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in international business and a master’s degree from Clemson University in travel and tourism. Clemson University recently inducted Neville into its “Outstanding Alumnus” circle for his work in advancing tourism.
Session 2 features July Randall with a topic of “Bring Out Your Stories.” Randall is a researcher who has spent over 25 years capturing the voice of the customer. She is president/CEO of Randall Travel Marketing, Inc., a company that focuses solely on research for the travel and tourism industry. She has conducted comprehensive visitor research studies for over 150 small, medium and large destinations. Judy, along with Dr. Larry Gustke, co-authors the annual Top Ten Trends in Travel and Tourism (published annually since 1995). Judy is one of the top speakers in the travel industry and has spoken at numerous U.S. and international travel conferences. Now in “semi-retirement” Judy is still working and speaking between world travels.
Session 3 will be headed by Charity Stewart speaking on “Socially Working with Millennials.” Charity has spent the last 10 years using her marketing skills in a variety of roles including staff recruitment, tourism advertising, small business marketing, and communications training.
As account manager at Move Digital she actively uses digital media platforms to promote client’s brands and consistently engage their consumers. Originally from Wisconsin, Charity is the founder of a local book club, a Communication Arts Lecturer at UAHuntsville, proud pet owner, and Space Camp Right Stuff winner.
Her presentation at the Annual Meeting will leave attendees with an understanding of who millennials are, what advertising works for them (and what doesn’t), how they make purchasing decisions, and how you can confidently reach them through social media.
The AMLA Board Meeting at 3 p.m. will include the presentation of the 2017 Program of Work and Budget. Special Guest will be Ray Hydrick and Joseph Dabbs of Advance Travel.
Ray Hydrick, Sales Manager for Advance Travel and Tourism (a part of AL.com and Alabama Media Group), brings 12 years of digital advertising experience. He specializes in working with Convention and Visitors Bureaus, DMO’s, and tourist attractions across 6 southern states to build custom online solutions designed to engage travelers and entice them to travel. He has in depth knowledge of behavior targeted display advertising, native advertising, social media, SEM, geofencing, and more.


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