From the rolling foothills of lower Appalachia to the region’s unique and culture-rich attractions, North Alabama has solidified itself as a prime destination for tourists across the nation. The region is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and folksy natives who strictly adhere to the values of old-fashioned southern hospitality.
North Alabama is a beautiful story, but like all well-written novels, it is in need of a skilled and artful narrator; someone who can bring to life the words which lay upon its pages. Perhaps no one articulates the intrigue of the Yellowhammer State’s Mountain Lakes region more eloquently than Tami Reist.
Reist is president/CEO of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA), where she plans, implements, directs and evaluates all promotional programs as well as overall development of the tourism and travel industry within the 16 northernmost counties of the state of Alabama.
She tirelessly works to promote the growth of the tourism industry as she serves on numerous boards for tourism and travel-related and civic organizations.
Reist is a governor’s appointee to the Scenic Byways Committee and is Alabama Tourism Chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission. She also sits on the Southeast Tourism Society Legislative Council, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, Alabama Travel Council, Alabama Council of Association Executives, Alabama Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, and numerous other local and state travel-related groups.
She is also an instructor at the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College in Dahlonega, GA, and has been a contributing presenter to the tourism and travel field of study at Mississippi State University.
Among her many recognitions is the ATHENA Leadership Award from the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Travel Council Partnership Award and the Southeast Tourism Society Dorothy Hardman Spirit Award. She is also an inductee into the Morgan County Leadership Hall of Fame and This is Alabama, Birmingham magazine’s Women Who Shape the State honoree, and a 2021 graduate of the Appalachian Leadership Institute.
Although she will be the first person to extol the work of those around her, the role Reist has played in placing the region on the map cannot be understated. The region consistently generates more than $2.6 billion in travel expenditures on an annual basis, which highlights the role tourism plays in serving as an economic driving force for rurally-dominated North Alabama.
Reist hails a three-decades-long career in the tourism and travel industry. As an industry leader, her work is guided by the words of fellow Alabamian and trailblazer Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” As head of North Alabama’s leading promotional entity, she has fostered a successful collaborative professional environment which is evidenced by the robust state of tourism in the Mountain Lakes region.
She holds extensive experience in the hospitality industry as she’s served in various leadership capacities at some of the region’s premier hotels.
Reist served as the president/CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She was also project manager and general manager of Courtyard by Marriott in Decatur. Reist served as regional manager for Hampton Inn and Country Inn & Suites by Carlson in Decatur and Florence, and was formerly the general manager and project coordinator of the Amberley Suite Hotel in Decatur.
For Reist, promoting North Alabama is a passion. Introducing the sheer beauty and fascinating story of the Tennessee Valley to out-of-towners is something she pours her heart into.
Perhaps there is no formula to fully quantify the net impact Reist has had on the travel industry, but there is no doubt that her work has led to untold economic achievements for a rural region that has historically been deprived of growth opportunities, specifically for Alabama’s Appalachian counties.
As Alabama Tourism chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Reist made it her mission to focus resources to provide support for a traditionally underserved and economically-deprived area.
“You look at Appalachia and you look at a lot of these rural communities, all they have is their outdoors,” said Reist. “When you’re rural and you don’t have the industry [driving] sales tax and lodging tax, you get left behind and you don’t have money to do incentives with. So, my recommendation was that we focus on these individual communities.”
For Reist, no community is too small to reap the benefits of its natural treasures. Truly with a servant’s heart and an ambitious can-do spirit, she seeks to better the region she serves by championing the special characteristics that are unique to each and every locality in North Alabama.
She believes North Alabama holds boundless potential, as she sees the region as a diverse area ripe for an even more prosperous tourism industry. Reist loves the area she serves, but above all, she loves its people. The motivating factor for what Reist does day in and day out to promote the area is her passion for working alongside others in an effort to accomplish a common goal.
Yellowhammer News is proud to name Tami Reist a 2021 Woman of Impact.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL