For more than 20 years, Herb Malone has been arguably the state’s most enthusiastic cheerleader for Alabama’s Gulf Coast. With good reason, as he’s been promoting the coastal area for much of his life.
A college football player who was a member of the Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama) 1971 NAIA national championship team, Malone was president/CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce from 1988 to 1993, working to recruit both businesses and guests to the area. He played a key role in the establishment of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), now known as Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. He has led this organization as president/CEO since 1993, presiding over a nearly $5 billion local tourism industry.
His work was honored in 2000 when he was inducted into the Alabama Hospitality Hall of Fame. In 2001 he was named Alabama’s Tourism Promoter of the Year, and in 2005 he was honored as Alabama’s Tourism Executive of the Year. Malone led the coastal tourism industry through two major disasters – the recovery from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest marine oil spill in history that battered the economy of the Gulf Coast. Ten years later, Alabama Living talked to Malone about his life and career on the coast.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
Herb Malone: People! The people that choose to visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for their vacation, as well as the people I have the golden opportunity to work with.
Q: What is it about Alabama’s Gulf Coast that makes people return year after year?
Malone: The natural beauty of our beaches as well as the genuine Southern hospitality they experience while here.
Q: Has our coastline fully recovered from the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill?
Malone: Yes, several years ago. The seafood in the Gulf is the greatest barometer of the coastal environment. Testing of the waters ever since the oil spill was cleaned up has determined there are no side effects.
Q: What’s your favorite place to relax on Alabama’s Gulf Coast?
Malone: Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge. My wife and I live within walking distance of the Refuge, and even on crowded summer weekends, we can find solitude just a short walk away.
Q: What do you tell visitors is a “can’t miss” attraction on Alabama’s beaches?
Malone: Get out on the water and explore. There are many options to achieve this even if you do not own a boat. You can rent a boat, take a dolphin-watching cruise, charter a boat for a wide variety of fishing trips from inshore to offshore, ride the ferry to Dauphin Island and back along with many more options to visit these God-given waters.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.