Researchers reveal results of Huntsville tourism study - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Researchers reveal results of Huntsville tourism study

The Tourism Skills Group report recommended more promotion of the area's recreational assets. The Tourism Skills Group report recommended more promotion of the area's recreational assets.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

While Cotton Row head chef James Boyce sprinkled salt, sugar and whiskey into a salmon recipe, the restaurant's marketers considered what side their bread is buttered on.

"Most of our business does come from out of town: guests, people who are coming in for the night," said Marketing Manager Teneshia Laroda, and "a lot of businesses who are looking to do private events." 

At the Huntsville Botanical Gardens Monday, researchers with Tourism Skills Group unveiled the results of a strategic study of the area's prospects in the tourism business conducted for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

"People who come to Madison County love it here," said Tourism Skills Group CEO Neville Bhada. "They like the fact that there's an array of restaurants, a good array of lodging properties to choose from, but they also like the fact that there's a lot of culture here that you can go to the symphony."

The study revealed that the typical visitor to the area is 50 years old, female with a college degree and an income between $60,00 and $80,000.

Tourism Skills Group found that travelers viewed Huntsville favorably as a regional hub. The study also found the area dangerously lacking in diversification and overly dependent on government business, as demonstrated during the sequestration challenges of 2013.

Researchers also found travelers disappointed with the area's lack of upscale full service hotels.

The Tourism Skills Group report recommended more promotion of the area's recreational assets, noting that the community is well aware of such attractions as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the Huntsville Botanical Gardens but little else.  It called for promotion of more leisure trade, meetings, reunion and wedding events, as well as sports tourism, which it labeled "virtually recession-proof."  The report also suggested more marketing outreach into other military-oriented towns since many overnight visitors come from such areas.

Laroda said the majority of Cotton Row's business is either visitors from out of town or locals entertaining visitors from out of town and her business is starkly aware of how important a healthy and growing tourism industry can be. 

"It can be the total drive of your business," she said. "It can make or break your business if your local economy is not strong.  Luckily for Huntsville we have a pretty decent local economy but the more we have people coming to visit and talking about what we offer here in Huntsville, the better it is for all businesses."  

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