State tourism hits a record high in 2011

A record number of tourists visited Alabama in 2011. Governor Bentley released the numbers Monday. 23 million people visited our state last year and there was a big economic impact. Tourists spent more than $10 billion. Some places in Alabama are gearing up for even bigger year for tourism. "Tourism helps us recruit more jobs to Alabama not just the jobs at work in tourism, but showcasing the state," Governor Robert Bentley, said.Statewide tourism is drawing new faces and new financial opportunities and here in Birmingham, we're hitting a record of our own..."4 million which amounts to $1.5 billion into our economy," Sara Hamlin, Vice President of Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau said.Elizabeth Ray and her son Daniel are a part of that crowd. They traveled in for the day from their home in St. Clair County."The history is awesome," Daniel Ray said. "I'm a history buff so I can't wait to get into that history museum.""Birmingham Zoo, Sloss Furnace, Civil Rights District, which includes 16th St. Baptist Church and the Institute in addition to Kelly Ingram Park, so we have so many things to see and do in the city," Hamlin said.The civil Rights Institute has a constant stream of visitors especially with the upcoming 50th anniversary - Many are traveling in from across the globe.{}"It's the story that one person can do something to create change," Ahmad Ward, Education Director, Civil Rights Institute said. "When we get together on one accord we can do things. That is Birmingham in a nutshell. I think that's why it's important that this place is here."The McWane Science Center and Imax sees 350,000 visitors a year."There is so much for different age groups, great stuff for younger kids, and adults have a great time. It's a great family place," Lilla Goodwyn, McWane Center said.And the latest craze is Birmingham's restaurant scene its drawing thousands of first time visitors into the Magic City."This is the year of Alabama food and I think people are coming from all around the country toexperience that and it is a really positive economic impact for our state," Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot said.