On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced record-breaking tourism statistics for 2018. The tourism industry attracted 27.7 million visitors in 2018, a million more than ever before.
“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,” Ivey said in the press release. “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.”
Visitors to the state spent $15.5 billion last year, $1.2 billion more than in 2017, according to the state’s annual economic impact report produced by Montgomery economist Keivan Deravi for the Alabama Tourism Department. They paid $954 million in state and local taxes, effectively saving the average Alabama family $507 from additional taxes.
Many counties saw an increase in tourism in 2018, but according to a press release, Morgan County saw the greatest increase at 20 percent. Montgomery, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Madison and Mobile counties all had an increase in travel.
“We are proud that this past year showed the largest growth in visitors and expenditures in the state’s history,” said Lee Sentell, Alabama State Tourism Director. “We substantially exceeded our goals by attracting more than one million additional visitors and increasing expenditures by $1.2 billion.”
While Sentell contributes the success in 2018 to various marketing strategies including social media marketing, he said there are several tourist destinations to open up in the future.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians will be increasing their investment in an amusement park near Gulf Shores. The newly opened U.S. Civil Rights Trail highlights civil rights landmarks in Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuskegee.
The travel industry represents 7.3 percent of Alabama’s Gross Domestic Product.