Ecotourism, experiences and generational marketing steal the show at annual tourism summit

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

Media Contact:

Mary Sergeant • Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
[email protected]
1-800-745-SAND • 251-974-4605 (direct) • 251-509-3832 (cell)

GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (GSOBT) hosted their annual Tourism Summit Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, at The Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. Presentation highlights included tourism updates, destination sustainability and ecotourism efforts, generational marketing and the CVB’s partnership with The Experience Lab.

Below are some of the key moments from the 2019 Tourism Summit:

  1. Herb Malone, president and CEO of GSOBT, began the summit by announcing the preliminary 2018 tourism numbers. The cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach rounded out the year with $526.1 million in lodging revenue and $938.4 million in retail sales. Official 2018 numbers will be reported in late spring 2019. Malone also updated the crowd on lodging inventory. To date, the area houses 17,453 existing units with 941 in the works which brings the total number of accommodations to more than 18,000. “Our annual Tourism Summit is a fantastic time for our industry partners and cities to come together to celebrate our success from the past year, and to learn ways our industries are growing and changing,” said Malone. “The growth in the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is strong and will continue to be strong thanks to the dedication put forth by our local business to ensure our visitors have memorable, life-changing experiences while on our beaches.”

  2. Bill Bennett, general manager for The Lodge at Gulf State Park, took the stage to welcome attendees to The Lodge. He stressed the importance of ecotourism and the sustainability efforts and practices his facility has implemented to ensure that it is as least impactful to the environment as possible. These efforts by The Lodge and Valor Hospitalities include recycling about 70 percent of the construction waste during the building of the facility, wood screens to decrease energy usage, wildlife-friendly lights, the collection of rainwater and condensation to be repurposed in a variety of ways, and much more. The Lodge is also seeking LEED Gold and SITES Platinum certifications and is the second commercial FORTIFIED building in the world behind the Gulf State Park Interpretive Center.

  3. Following Bennett, Travis Langen, executive director for the upcoming Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism and Sustainability, provided attendees with a detailed overview of the facility, the programs and workshops that will be offered, and the center’s main initiatives. “The power of nature to transform people is well-documented,” said Langen. “You especially see it happen with kids because a whole new world opens up for them in nature.” The center is a partnership with the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of Environment, the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, Gulf State Park and Valor Hospitality, city and county schools, and many more.

  4. Next to take the stage was Kristin Scroggin, owner of genWHY Communications. Scroggin had the crowd in fits of laughter as she detailed the differences and similarities between generations. She highlighted how generations tend to behave in the workplace and as travelers. According to her studies, as of 2018, 46 percent of the American population is under 33 years of age; and 26.9 percent are millennials, 24.9 percent are Generation X, 22.7 percent are Baby Boomers, 18.4 percent are Generation Z, and 6.8 percent are Traditionalists. To learn more about the generations covered, refer to the presentation below.

  5. “Nobody wants a vanilla vacation,” said Joe Veneto, The Opportunity Guy, as he began the last presentation of the summit. Veneto partnered with GSOBT in 2017 to help local tourism businesses create memorable, hands-on experiences for their guests. Ten businesses are participants in The Experience Lab: Fort Morgan Historic Site, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Gulf State Park Nature Center, The Lodge at Gulf State Park, High Cotton, LuLu’s, Orange Beach Concierge, Reel Surprise Charters, Wild Native Tours and Young’s Suncoast. The businesses have been working with Veneto for the past year and look forward to unveiling their creations in May and September 2019.

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About Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism:

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism serves as the official destination marketing organization for the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in addition to the unincorporated area of Fort Morgan. To learn more about Alabama’s 32 miles of white-sand beaches, visit either or This convention and visitors bureau is an accredited Destination Marketing Organization.