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For Immediate Release: September 7, 2012

A New Angle On Tourism

Senator Scofield to Ask Writers to Produce Tourism Novels

Sen. Clay Scofield, chairman of the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee, will soon ask Alabama writers and publishers to help boost the state’s economy in a very unique way: through tourism novels. Scofield would be the first elected official in the nation to ask writers to use tourism attractions as settings for novels that include travel guides. The proposal could also apply to many other areas across the nation if other states adopt the same idea.

Scofield will make the appeal while presenting Alabamian Kathryn Lang with the nation’s first tourism fiction award October 10th at the Moundville Native American Festival. Scofield will be presenting Lang with the 2012 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award, sponsored by the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative.
Tourism fiction is a new genre that involves setting fictional stories in real tourism attractions and combining the stories with travel guides.

The genre also includes novels with interactive travel guides on new e-readers like the Kindle Fire and iPad, where readers can instantly click on tourism links from inside the story and learn how to visit the attractions they are reading about. Scofield hopes that if writers and publishers produce multiple tourism novels about Alabama’s many attractions, then the state will see a resulting rise in tourism revenue to help stressed state and city budgets. If readers visit the attractions found in the novel tourism guides, then they would be spending money on hotels, restaurants, gas and air fares, entertainment venues, and shopping. All of the extra economic activity would boost consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of the nation’s economy.

Lang was selected for the award after her tourism short story “Digging Up Bones” won the Inaugural SELTI Writing Contest, which was judged by a team of University of Alabama English and marketing professors. The contest was the first in the nation that challenged writers to compose short stories designed for promoting tourism to a real attraction: the Moundville Archaeological Park. The contest was cosponsored by the University of Alabama Museums, the curator for the Moundville historic site, which is open to the public and includes an interpretive museum.

Moundville was once the second largest Native American city in North America 800 years ago. The historic site of dozens of large mounds is just south of Tuscaloosa on the banks of the Black Warrior River.

“Digging Up Bones” is currently published online at the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative in the May 2012 feature. At SELTI, readers get to read the story and see photos of the actual ruins and museum, along with a convenient link leading directly to the museum’s website. Along with the interpretive center, the museum includes stunning artifacts excavated from the site, a café and a gift shop.

“When I first heard about SELTI through the Alabama Tourism Department, I knew that Moundville would be the perfect subject for a project of this type,” said Kelli Harris, Development Director for the University of Alabama Museums. “Moundville generates so much mystery that creative minds have no difficulty conjuring up rich mental images and fantastic stories related to the site. In fact, cultural attractions all over the United States could benefit from literary tourism projects. So many times visitors to sites like ours have no basis of knowledge to spark interest. Literature couples with technology offers a creative way to personalize historical and cultural sites and involve visitors in an immersive way.

“I look forward to the increased exposure that the tourism fiction contest will bring to the Moundville site,” said Dr. Bill Bomar, Director of Moundville Archaeological Park. “Moundville is one of the nation’s premier archaeological sites, yet many outside of Alabama have never heard of it. This is such a creative way to make people aware of such an important part of our heritage.”

“Our family visits Moundville once a year, and each time I am overwhelmed by the impressive size of the mounds,” said Lang. “Climbing to the top of the Temple Mound took my breath away– literally and figuratively. That site alone is enough to set the imagination spinning.”

“Tourism fiction is an innovative tool that can be used by any city or attraction in the world to engage potential tourists in an entirely new way,” said SELTI founder Patrick Miller.

The global economic downturn has put increasing pressure on tourism attractions and cultural parks everywhere, many of which rely on shrinking government funding and private donations to stay afloat. Although Moundville has done very well over the past few years, tourism fiction could be a model for how many other cultural parks can reach the public on a whole new level. Interactive tourism novels could also prove to be a new tool to drive tourism towards struggling countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain, whose current financial woes continue to threaten bringing down the entire Eurozone.. If those countries do better economically, the United States would see benefits from a more stable world economy.

Some of the characters in Lang’s short story “Digging Up Bones”are first introduced in her debut novel “Run,” and the short story will also introduce the beginning of her third novel in the Big Springs series. The fictional Big Springs is based on the real city of Guntersville, Alabama. The third novel will go into more depth at Moundville and pick up where the short story left off.

Lang is working on including interactive travel guides for the e-book editions of her novels, like Miller’s novel, “Blind Fate,” which was the nation’s first novel with an interactive tourism guide. SELTI also published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise: Interactive Tourism Edition,” which has tourism links to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery and Princeton University tours in New Jersey, a major setting of the novel.

“Digging Up Bones” can be read at SELTI by visiting this link or by Googling “literary tourism”:

Press contacts:
Patrick Miller
Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative
Phone: (334) 201-7274

Sen. Clay Scofield
Marshall County Legislative Office
Phone: (256) 582-0619

For More Information Contact: phone 256-582-0619

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