HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — With more than half of all travelers coming to Madison County on business, experts are urging local tourism officials to diversify.
The findings from the independent in-depth study , researched by Tourism Skills Group on tourism in the region were presented Monday afternoon in Huntsville to a room filled with local marketing and travel leaders.
The Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau hired Tourism Skills Group Founder Neville Bhada to conduct the surveys last December to find out why travelers came here and what they liked about their visits.
Bhada reported business travel is the strongest segment in Huntsville tourism; it constitutes almost 60% of Madison County’s tourism business. He says there needs to diversity in the market. 2013 demonstrated Madison County’s reliance on the federal government as when the government shutdown, the County’s occupancy rates and income subsequently plummeted.
Huntsville and Madison hoteliers will be marketing for more government groups in 2014 and beyond. Sports, conferences and reunions were distant priorities.
Bhada recommends increased promotion of sports and leisure tourism.
Bhada says the sluggish last several years will take several more years to bounce back from and return to 2007 levels of occupancy in hotels.
The study involved sending a survey of 43 questions to people who had recently stayed in Madison County. More than 35 percent indicated they had never visited Huntsville previously, and nearly 25 percent responded saying they had visited just once previously. The average length of stays was three days, and the average amount spent was $1.079.
The study found Georgia and Tennessee residents are the most likely to spend the night in Huntsville for leisure purposes. Florida citizens and those from south Alabama were distant third and fourth.
Several visitors to the area reported having a hard time navigating local roads and would have liked more signs to point them in the direction of dining and hotel accommodations.
The Alabama Tourism Department recently reported the travel industry pumped $997 million into the Madison County’s economy in 2013 and is responsible for 14,255 local jobs.