MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey on Monday [May 20, 2019] announced at a press conference that one million more people visited Alabama in 2018 than ever before and spent $15.5 billion, which was $1.2 billion higher than the previous year, according to the state’s annual economic impact report produced by Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi for the Alabama Tourism Department.
The industry attracted more than 27.7 million visitors, which paid $954 million in state and local taxes, saving the average Alabama family $507 from additional taxes to maintain current service levels.
“We are excited our tourism industry grew by 8.5 percent in 2018, and we are proud to welcome millions of visitors to every region of our state, from the Tennessee Valley to the Wiregrass, to experience our hiking trails, beaches, restaurants and historical sites each year,” Governor Ivey said. “This great news not only impacts tourism, but it also has a major impact on our employment sector. Almost 200,000 direct and indirect jobs were maintained by the industry last year, setting yet another record!”
The report shows that Montgomery County expenditures jumped by more than 15 percent, which is likely driven by the memorial and museum opened by the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative last year. Jefferson County travel grew by more than 10 percent, Morgan County by 20 percent, Tuscaloosa County by 11 percent, and Madison and Mobile counties by about 7.5 percent.
State Tourism Director Lee Sentell credited increased marketing activities, ranging from social media and paid advertising to public relations activations in places such as New York and Dallas, for the success. He said Raycom Media, affiliated with the Retirement Systems of Alabama, aired commercials at no cost on 64 television stations.
“We are proud that this past year showed the largest growth in visitors and expenditures in the state’s history,” Sentell said. “We substantially exceeded our goals by attracting more than one million additional visitors and increasing expenditures by $1.2 billion.”
He also said the Poarch Band of Creek Indians investments in an amusement park near Gulf Shores continues to expand while the launch of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail spotlights landmarks in Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuskegee.
A sprawling Cook Museum of Natural Science opens in Decatur in June and an upgrade of the infield at the Talladega Superspeedway will be unveiled in October, he said.
The travel industry represents 7.3 percent of Alabama’s Gross Domestic Product.