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State economic impact report reveals dramatic increase in tourism for North Alabama; Travelers spent $3.7 billion in 2021

In 2021, travelers spent over $3.7 billion while visiting the 16 counties of the North Alabama region, representing a 42.8% increase over 2020, according to a report recently released by the Alabama Tourism Department (ATD).

The report, “Alabama Tourism Industry Economic Impact 2021”, was conducted for the ATD using a model created by Dr. Keivan Deravi, an economist in the School of Business at Auburn University in Montgomery. Counties comprising the North Alabama region consist of Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston Counties.

The purpose of the study is to estimate the economic impact of the travel and tourism industry in Alabama for 2021 and includes information on the number of jobs attributed to tourism, spending and revenue figures and the most visited counties. Dr. Deravi’s model analyzes tax revenues collected by the state to provide the annual travel economic impact study.

In 2021, travel-related total expenditures in the North Alabama region reached more than $3.7 billion, up from $2.6 billion in 2020. Travel-related earnings showed a 41.9% increase from $813,254,742 in 2020 to $1,154,259,482 in 2021, and 44,071individuals were employed directly and indirectly in the tourism industry, a 41.6% increase over 2020.

“We are excited to learn the north Alabama region experienced a 42% increase in travel-related expenditures in 2021,” said Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association president and CEO Tami Reist. “The North Alabama tourism industry, just like other areas across our country, suffered tremendously from the pandemic in 2020, as travel came to a screeching halt as the spread of COVID-19 infiltrated our great nation. As we navigated the fluid situation of the pandemic, we soon realized an increase in outdoor recreation with more people turning to nature for its health benefits. North Alabama is home to many outdoor recreation opportunities and our many tourism professionals have done an outstanding job of sharing our story and what the region has to offer.”

Travelers to the state of Alabama in 2021 spent over $19.6 billion, representing an increase of 47% over 2020 spending. For every $1 in Alabama’s travel-related expenditures, the state retains a total of $0.34. In 2021, $1.1 billion of state and local tax revenues were generated by travel and tourism activities. Without those taxes, each household in Alabama would have had to pay $631 in additional taxes to maintain current service levels.

The national tourism industry suffered a drop of 45% during 2020, the peak year of the COVID pandemic. Alabama, on the other hand, lost only 20% of its revenue from 2019. Alabama ranked among the top six states for least loss of revenue.

Alabama State Tourism Director Lee Sentell attributes the minimal loss of revenue to a couple of strategic actions by Gov. Kay Ivey. Gov. Ivey funded a $10 million federal CARES grant at the request of the Alabama Tourism Department. The mission was to create and transmit digital ads that showcased attractions in each of the state’s 67 counties. The ads were seen in surrounding states some 268 million times during a six-week period. The campaign generated a dramatic surge in inquiries from prospective vacationers. Google Search collects inquiries about hotels, cities, attractions, restaurants and airlines by state. Searches for Alabama travel information jumped from 30th place two years earlier to fourth place among the 50 states, according to the U.S. Travel Association. More people searched for Alabama information than they did for such populous states as Texas, California, Hawaii and New York.

“I would also like to credit city leaders for understanding the importance of tourism infrastructure and investing in it throughout the years, especially during the pandemic. New hotels are popping up in downtown areas, entertainment venues such as MidCity Huntsville and the Rocket City Trash Pandas are creating a ripple effect and agritourism destinations are offering a different form of entertainment as well as serving as an educational outlet. Along with an increase in leisure travel, corporate travel has increased and we are seeing more retirees relocating to the North Alabama area,” added Reist.

For the complete report, go here. For more information on things to see and do in North Alabama, visit www.northalabama.org.

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