Destination Huntsville: Tourism officials report record-setting year

single-meta-cal June 24, 2022

Huntsville and Madison County may be gaining dozens of new residents each month, but millions of people took a trip to the Rocket City in 2021, according to a recent report by the Alabama Tourism Department.

Despite continued health protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huntsville-Madison County area enjoyed a robust year for tourism. We welcomed 3.7 million people, a 32% increase over 2020 and 3% increase over 2019.

Red flowers are seen blooming at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. A large pergola is seen in the background.

The Huntsville Botanical Garden is one of the Huntsville-Madison County area’s top destinations for residents and visitors.

“We’re very encouraged the numbers for 2021 eclipsed our previous record,” said Charles Winters, executive vice president of marketing for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “What was a record year, in 2019, last year just blew right past it.”

The benefits of tourism on the local economy are innumerable, but there’s one many residents probably don’t realize. Winters said each household saved $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,” he said. “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.”

By the numbers

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at Huntsville and Madison County’s tourism totals in 2021:


Estimated number of visitors to Madison County in 2021

$1.7 billion

Total economic impact from tourism


Direct and indirect jobs attributed to travel, tourism and hospitality


Amount of taxes saved by each Madison County household because of travel expenditures

When you’re talking about the most-visited counties in Alabama, Madison County is now only second to Baldwin County – home to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Winters, however, expects 2022 could top 2021, especially if pandemic restrictions continue to fade away.

“We’re not to the point yet where government and corporate travel has come back, so we anticipate another big bump-up when that happens,” he said.

Looking ahead

Not figured into the 2021 numbers is The Orion Amphitheater, which opened in May 2022. Winters said the venue, which is attracting internationally renowned performers, will certainly figure into 2022 totals.

A shot of the stage at the Orion Amphitheater with many fans all around watching the show. It is nighttime and the stage is lighted.

The Orion Amphitheater, which opened in May 2022, could help set a new tourism revenue record next year.

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, Monte Sano State Park and The Orion.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Click here to learn more about the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau