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Tourism means big bucks to North Alabama

By By Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Tourism in North Alabama generated more than $1.1 billion last year, according to area travel officials.
"The fact that North Alabama came through 2001 with its tourism economy intact is a clear indicator of the strength of the region," North Alabama Tourism Association President and CEO Cameron Reeder said.
NATA is the new name of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. The group promotes travel and tourism in the North Alabama areas, encompassing Morgan, Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall and Winston counties.
Overall, the state of Alabama's tourism dollars increased by 1 percent in 2000, for a total of $6.1 billion.
Those numbers were surprising to many, who thought the events of Sept. 11 would have a greater impact on tourism dollars.
Travel and tourism supports some 22,054 full-time jobs in North Alabama.
These jobs provide more than $402 million a year in salaries.
"Tourism is the third largest retail industry in the nation and generates $584 billion while contributing $100 billion in tax revenue to the state and local government," Reeder said.
Just how important is tourism to Alabama and North Alabama?
Consider these numbers:
More than 138,000 jobs in Alabama are directly or indirectly attributed to the travel and tourism industry.