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Alabama tourism weathered pandemic better than most states

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Tourist spending in Alabama dropped 20% last year at the height of pandemic lockdowns and business closings, but the state fared better than most during the coronavirus crisis, state tourism officials said.

A statement from the Alabama Tourism Department said a travel consulting firm found a nationwide decline of 42% in travel expenditures, but Alabama’s decrease wasn’t as bad because spending was robust in Baldwin County, where the beach towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located.

State beaches, which are historically Alabama’s top tourist draw, were shut down early in the pandemic but reopened as the summer travel season was beginning.

“Baldwin County’s success is all the more remarkable when you factor in that the beaches were closed for six weeks in the spring and one week due to a hurricane in the fall,” said Judy Ryals, chair of the board that oversees the agency.

Visitors spent more than $13 billion on accommodations, travel, food, shopping and other items in the state in 2020, the department said. Tourism generated more than $18 billion in 2019 before the pandemic affected the state economy.

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