3.7 million tourists visited Huntsville last year, and more are expected in 2022

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Some 3.7 million tourists visited the Huntsville area in 2021, according to the Alabama Tourism Department. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

Those of us who live here in Huntsville know it’s a great place to be, but apparently word about Huntsville’s awesomeness has been spreading for a while now, and the number of visitors to the Rocket City last year is a pretty good indication of the city’s popularity.

The Alabama Tourism Department said 3.7 million people visited Huntsville and Madison County last year, setting a record for the area despite travel being stymied by the coronavirus pandemic.

How tourism helps the city

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The Huntsville Botanical Garden is one reason Huntsville received more than 3 million visitors in 2021. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

The benefits of tourism on the local economy are hard to ignore, but there is one aspect of the tourism boom that may not be as well-known. Charles Winters, executive vice president of marketing for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said each household saved approximately $1,000 in taxes due to the impact of tourism.

“Our community has so much to offer, and the quality of life we enjoy as residents, it’s enjoyed by visitors, too. Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of elected officials who understand that having the best facilities you can have not only helps residents, but it also brings in visitors who want to visit and potentially live here.”

Charles Winters, executive vice president of marketing for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Total, the Huntsville metro brought in $1.7 billion in 2021 from tourism, and more than 21,000 direct and indirect jobs can be attributed to the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

Madison County is now second only to Baldwin County – home to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach – on the list of most-visited counties in Alabama.

The future of tourism in Huntsville

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The Orion Amphitheater opened in May and is expected to bring in more tourism for Madison County in 2022. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

Okay, let’s also keep this in mind when considering these staggering tourism numbers: these 3.7 million people all came to the Huntsville metro BEFORE the opening of the Orion Amphitheater. Now, imagine what 2022’s tourism numbers will be!

The addition of the Orion — which will bring in more than 20 different concerts in 2022, and an anticipated 40+ concerts next year — should result in Huntsville surpassing its 2021 visitor totals.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the tourism numbers came as no surprise to him as Huntsville boasts several top attractions, including the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville Botanical Garden and Monte Sano State Park.

“The tourism numbers for 2021 really solidify what we know to be true – great things are happening here, and people want to be a part of it. Some people may be sad our secret is out, but sales and lodging taxes play a big role in our ability to maintain, improve and build our infrastructure. We’re grateful to our tourism partners for continuing to tell our story and promote our successes.”

Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle
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The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is Huntsville’s most popular tourist attractions. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)
Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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