By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
AUBURN, Ala. – Alabama’s tourism industry has grown substantially over the last decade to this year have a $24 billion economic impact, Gov. Kay Ivey and state officials announced Tuesday.
In 2013, tourism accounted for an $11 billion impact. More than doubling in growth amounts to a “booming” tourism industry, Ivey said.
“These are the kind of results that are taking Alabama flying at full speed ahead,” Ivey said. “I’ll leave you with this: As we head into the next four years, I assure you that you have a governor who is committed 1,000% to supporting the tourism industry and to the work that each and every one of you do.”
Ivey was speaking to a gathering of tourism industry professionals and vendors at the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which this year was held at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center.
Lee Sentell, who has worked as the director of the Alabama Department of Tourism for the last 20 years, said Alabama’s industry has fared better than most states through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2020, the national industry was down 45%. Alabama was down 20%,” Sentell said. “We were in the top five states with the least loss. It’s because people discovered our state parks and our beaches and our outdoor recreation, and they liked it so much that they’ve come back.”
According to the Alabama Tourism Economic Impact Report for 2021, that year saw an increase of 26% in visitors to the state, amounting to 28.2 million people who spent $19.7 million. That year, the state’s 4% lodging tax sent $72.6 million to the General Fund. Overall, $1.1 billion of state and local tax revenues were generated by travel and tourism activities, according to the report.
The tourism impact report for 2022 has not yet been released but Sentell and Ivey were confident enough in the increased numbers to announce them publicly Tuesday. Ivey also pointed to football season starting and how championship football has become a tourist draw in the state.
“College football is upon us and all our college towns are prepared to welcome visitors back,” Ivey said. “Football in Alabama is a big thing and I’m just looking forward to being a part of it.”