BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Tourism spending in Alabama reached an all-time high with a record 26 million travelers visiting the state last year.
Al.com reports that $14.3 billion was spent on tourism in 2017. The report, unveiled by Gov. Kay Ivey through a state Tourism Department release, says Alabama’s tourism industry grew by seven percent, or $1 billion.
“Every part of the state saw dramatic growth, from the mountains of the Tennessee Valley to the beaches along the Gulf Coast,” Ivey said in a statement before releasing the report at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham. “Most communities generated more revenue and gained jobs through meetings, conventions, sporting events, visits to museums and other tourist attractions. The larger counties which have invested in sporting venues have seen an increase in the number of youth teams arriving from outside the immediate area for tournament.”
Ivey said the growth in Alabama’s tourism industry saves state residents from having to pay an additional $467 in taxes a year.
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“I am so proud to lead a state that has so much to offer to the people of the world, much less to our great state, and these numbers illustrate that people around the world want to come to Alabama to experience all the attractions that we have in our state,” the governor said at the museum
Jobs created through tourism increased by nearly 7,400 to 186,900 in 2017. The state numbers are about double the U.S. Labor Department estimate of 89,640 travel-related jobs in Alabama as of 2016.
Baldwin County had the most tourism spending with $4.4 billion. Jefferson County had the state’s highest growth in the tourism industry at 9.8 percent.
Growth in the sector was the largest this year since the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill, when $9 billion was spent by tourists statewide.
Madison County had more than 85,000 more tourists visit from 2016 for 3.1 million guests. Those visitors spent $1.3 billion in the county — a 9.8 percent gain from 2016.
“This is not the Alabama Tourism Department. This is the 185,000 people…who are representing your cities and your attractions,” said Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentel.