Tourism Dollars Pumping Big Money Into Rocket City Economy

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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.


  • Nuclear Mike

    All the “low hanging fruit” has already been picked…most people I know who have come to visit the Huntsville area for non-business reasons come 1 time and that’s all, no repeat visits…this is not a tourist destination…this is a GO-CO-TO area…Government COmpnay TOwn…Huntsville lives & dies by the Federal budget.

  • Jim

    I think the Space and Rocket Center needs to be expanded. The old setup at the museum worked better than the large Davidson Center which is essentially one large room. I would think if the old center were demolished and redesigned to compliment the Davidson center it would work better. It the museum had a flow where you started and had to follow a path thru the exhibits it would be much more enjoyable. Jacksonsville State University had a dept that works on museum design and utilization which could give the Space center a better idea on where to go in the future.

    Also Downtown Huntsville would really benefit from a large two-three story science museum like the McWane Science Center in Bham, Chattanooga’s Creative Discovery Museum or the MOSI in Tampa..Huntsville is a science industry based city and needs a very nice science museum. Why we didnt get SciQuest to locate to downtown Huntsville is beyond me. It should be a city financed museum at least the building of it because it is tourism based..

    A large waterpark would be good too..IE Braham Springs area would be a good area to start with. Try to lure a company here by leasing out some land to them for 99 yrs if they would build.

  • Jim

    Back to the Science Museum concept.. It would be a neat if there was a section in there that highlighted Huntsville Businesses involved in the military, space related, semiconductor, telephony industries with displays that showed their wares etc..I always liked the Space and Rocket Centers display on local industries supporting the military etc..

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