By the Alabama Tourism Department
The Alabama travel industry grew by $1 billion in 2017 to a record of $14.3 billion in expenditures, and increased jobs by 7,399 to some 186,906 employees, Gov. Kay Ivey announced recently.
She noted that the industry grew by 7 percent and attracted an additional 810,000 visitors to top 26 million guests for the first time.
“Every part of the state saw dramatic growth, from the mountains of the Tennessee Valley to the beaches along the Gulf Coast,” the governor says. “Most communities generated more revenue and gained jobs through meetings, conventions, sporting events, visits to museums and other tourist attractions.
“The larger counties, which have invested in sporting venues, have seen an increase in the number of youth teams arriving from outside the immediate area for tournaments,” she says.
The industry notched its highest growth in 2017 since the Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010 when tourists spent $9 billion, says state tourism director Lee Sentell.
Despite a wet July, Baldwin County added 82,238 guests for a total of 6.4 million guests who spent a record $4.4 billion. Jefferson County’s hospitality industry grew by a record 9.8 percent and 148,498 tourists. About 3.3 million total visitors helped Jefferson County cross the $2 billion mark in tourist spending for the first time.
In Madison County, an increase of 85,728 visitors yielded a total of 3.1 million guests who spent $1.3 billion for a 9.8 percent increase. In Mobile County, tourism grew by 8 percent. An additional 178,770 visitors meant a total of 3.4 million guests who spent $1.2 billon.
Montgomery County, which ranked fifth, added 8,940 guests for a 3.3 percent increase in tourist spending. The city had just under two million visitors who spent $841 million, according to a study by Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi.
The tourism industry generates millions of dollars for state and local government. The hospitality industry was responsible for $627.5 million in state taxes and an additional $251.6 million in local revenue for a total of $879 million, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year, the report said.
Some $70 million was generated in state lodgings taxes, of which 75 percent benefits the State General Fund.
Deravi says that without those taxes, each household in Alabama would have had to pay $467 in additional taxes to maintain current service levels.
Sentell credited Intermark Group, the ad agency for the state tourism department, for creative marketing initiatives and advertisements. He also expressed appreciation to the Retirement Systems of Alabama executive Dr. David Bronner for marketing support through commercials on Raycom Media television stations. Raycom has provided free air time valued at millions of dollars a year for state tourism commercials for more than 20 years.
Sentell noted that several of the major counties on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail achieved exceptional growth above the state’s average gain. Jefferson County, with courses at RTJ Ross Bridge and RTJ Oxmoor Valley, notched a 9.8 percent increase. Mobile County, with RTJ Magnolia Grove, increased by 7.9 percent and Madison County, home to RJT Hampton Cove, achieved a record growth of 9.8 percent.
“The Alabama Trail continues to outperform the nation’s other golf destinations,” Sentell says.
“The support from Raycom gives our state an amazing advantage over our surrounding states. It is an economic investment in our state’s economy that pays great dividends,” he says.
He also said that the continuing success of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail increases the economic impact of tourism throughout the state