Tami Reist from Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (Visit North Alabama) provided an update on regional tourism efforts in North Alabama. 

For more than five decades, the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association has been developing and promoting the tourism and travel industry of North Alabama.

The idea of a regional organization to promote the area was conceived by individuals concerned with the economic development of North Alabama. Five years of extensive research during the early 1960s concluded that the region was far above the national average in natural wonders, attractions and panoramic terrain, yet well below the national average in tourist income.

In 1960, as director of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, Dick Ordway began efforts to organize groups in Decatur, Huntsville, Florence, Sheffield, Athens, and Cullman to work together in promoting tourism and travel in the area.

The “regional” concept quickly gained attention. The initial six participating chambers in 1960 grew to ten in 1962 and then to 15 by 1963. Ordway’s efforts served as a cornerstone for the creation of AMLA.

In 1964 the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association was formed as a non-profit organization and charged with the responsibility of stimulating the economic and cultural development of North Alabama through the tourism and travel industry.

Funding for the fledging group was to be based on destination membership dues.

The area of responsibility for the association was designated as the 16 counties of Northern Alabama, which is a part of the fertile Tennessee River Valley region of the Southeast United States.

The 16 counties of the Northern Alabama region are: Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone,  Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, and Winston counties. 

The next major milestone in the history of AMLA came in 1970 with its first national recognition. Due to its meteoric rise and successful efforts in developing a tourism and travel agency in an untapped region, the Discover America organization presented the association with its top national award.

Another high-water mark for AMLA came in 1978 when then director Gil Langley created a funding model for the assoication that is now a national model for all regional tourism agencies.

Langley introduced an innovative bill to state legislators that would impose a 1% lodging tax on hotel and motels within the AMLA region. The unique proposal would split the tax by giving .5% to each county commission with the region for tourism development, while the remaining .5% would be allocated as the funding base for the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.

“Prior to this, the annual budget for the association was $48,000.” Langley said.

You can view what AMLA does by clicking here through marketing, public relations, economic development, and infrastructure. Visit NorthAlabama.org for all things NORTH ALABAMA! 


  • We will not be meeting this Friday, January 21.  See you next Friday, January 28, 2022, in the ASU Ballroom.
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