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Fun fact: May 7-13 was National Travel and Tourism Week.

National Travel and Tourism Week is a campaign administered by the U.S. Travel Association, with the purpose of highlighting the importance of the travel and tourism industry to our country’s economy.

Another fun fact: the travel and tourism industry supports the livelihood of over 15 million Americans. That’s pretty significant, right?

Some would have you think that travel and tourism is only important to those living in such exotic locales like Paris, or New York, or London. Well, as the saying goes, “hold on to your hat!” because I’m about to lay down some good ‘ole fashioned 4-1-1. Travel and tourism is booming in Huntsville, and while there’s probably a million reasons to celebrate the travel industry in the Rocket City, for the sake of time, I’m going to give you five.

1. The numbers don’t lie.

As reported by the Alabama Tourism Department, 2016 was the best year for travel and tourism to Madison County… ever. The total economic impact of travel reached $1.19 billion. That’s billion, with a B. Bringing in over 3 million visitors to the Huntsville area, Madison County beat out Mobile County in 2016 to claim the title of third most visited county in the entire state of Alabama.

Not only that, but every household in Huntsville/Madison County saved more than $650 in taxes as a result of travel expenditures. Cha-ching!

2. Huntsville is home to the #1 paid tourist attraction in the state.

Yep, in 2016 the U.S. Space & Rocket Center was the most visited paid attraction in Alabama, bringing in over 657,000 people. Folks don’t say Huntsville has a “spaceline” instead of a “skyline” for nothing.

3. The hospitality industry is vital to Huntsville’s strong economy.

The hospitality profession is responsible for over 15,400 jobs in Madison County alone. From the restaurants we enjoy, to the hotels that make our visitors feel right at home, to the museums and attractions we love to explore, these wouldn’t exist without thousands of hard-working hospitality professionals making it all happen. We may be the Rocket City, but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten our roots in Southern hospitality.

4. Even locals can explore Huntsville like a tourist.

Rocket City locals don’t need to miss out on all the fun. At the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center®, locals can score discounts on admission to various attractions, sporting events, and arts & entertainment offerings. So ditch the passport, unpack your suitcase and explore all the amazing things you can find in your own backyard.

5. Huntsville’s tourism offerings are nationally – and internationally – renowned.

It’s not always important to be the biggest or the best. But you know what? Sometimes it is.

Did you know that Huntsville’s own Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is the largest, privately owned arts facility in the United States? It is.

Did you know that the Huntsville Botanical Garden is home to the nation’s largest, open-air butterfly house? It is.

Did you know that the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the largest spaceflight museum in the world? It is.

Are you sensing a pattern? Not to say that we’re aren’t content keeping our quaint, Southern charm, but being home to these attractions (plus countless other first-class venues) underscores the fact that, regardless of where you come from in the world, Huntsville has something unique to offer everyone.

And that in itself is pretty good reason to celebrate.