Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was at the Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday in the Leeds area to promote the positive economic benefits that tourism brings to Alabama.
Director of Barber Motorsports Museum Jeff Ray said that in 2017, there were 66,000 visitors to the Barber Motorsports Museum and 240,000 visitors to the park’s events, including the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Department of Tourism Director Lee Sentell said 185,000 people across the state work in the tourism sector.
Sentell said that Ivey is the first governor to travel out of Montgomery to give a report on tourism. “I have been friends with her since our time together in Auburn, and I told her then that she would be the first woman governor of Alabama. She is the first woman to get it on her own.”
“We are here today to relay some good news about tourism in Alabama,” Ivey said. “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. The industry grew by seven percent and attracted an additional 810,000 visitors to top 26 million guests for the first time in state history.”
“Every part of the state saw dramatic growth, from the beautiful mountains of the Tennessee Valley to the stunning white sand beaches along the Gulf Coast,” Ivey said. “Most communities generated more revenue and gained jobs through hosting meetings, conventions, sporting events and visits to museums, among other attractions. These gains were especially seen in those areas which have invested in sporting venues which attract youth sports tournaments.”
Ivey said that the Barber Motorsports Park boasts the world’s largest motorcycle museum.
“I am proud that this state has so much to offer the people of the world,” Ivey said. “To continue to improve our state’s image which will attract even more people to our state. Alabama is a sweet place and the world knows it. Remember to tell your friends that this is Sweet Home Alabama.”
“This is such great news for the state of Alabama. In 2017, we had more visitors than at any other time in our history – visitors whose spending added one billion dollars more to the state economy than the year before,” Sentell said. “The site of today’s announcement, Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, is one of the reasons for these gains.” The Barber Museum and Park’s “352,000 visitors is an increase of more than 35 percent from the year before.”
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Sentell if the new, rebuilt Gulf State Park Lodge, which is scheduled to open in November, would further grow the tourism industry.
Sentell told APR that the new lodge is a total nature and environmental experience that no other gulf coast state has anything like. Sentell said that the new lodge will attract a different sort of visitor that we are not getting now.
The number one county for tourism remains Baldwin County. 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.
Madison County saw an increase of 85,728 visitors and 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 billion.
Montgomery County, which ranked fifth, added 8,940 guests for a 3.3 percent increase in tourist spending. The county had just under two million visitors who spent $841 million.
The numbers were produced in 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 five percent over the previous year, the report said.
Ivey is seeking her own term as governor and is running in the Republican primary on June 5.