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After record year, Alabama tourism revenues expected to fall

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to end years of record growth in Alabama’s tourism revenues as spending falls by the billions.

Posted: May 3, 2020 6:58 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic is expected to end years of record growth in Alabama’s tourism revenues as spending falls by the billions.

The Alabama Tourism Department said 28 million visitors spent nearly $17 billion in the state in 2019, which was the third straight year that travel spending grew by more than $1 billion in the state. Tourist spending increased nearly 8% statewide, according to the agency.

But that growth streak will likely end because people are reducing travel during the pandemic, said state tourism director Lee Sentell. Revenues this year could decline to as low as $14 billion, he said.

“That would put us where we were three years ago,” said Sentell. With schools out early to guard against spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, a longer-than-normal beach season could help fill some of the gap, he said.

A report from the tourism agency said the state's travel and hospitality industry employed more than 200,000 people for the first time last year, but that also could change because of the pandemic since many hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and other attractions have scaled back operations or closed since mid-March.

Coastal Baldwin County was the state’s top moneymaker for tourism last year, with $5.2 billion in revenues and about 54,000 people employed around Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Yet the coast is just now reopening after being shut down for weeks because of the new coronavirus.

In Baldwin alone, about 12,500 unemployment claims have been filed since the economic slowdown began, state labor statistics show. But Bill Brett, whose Brett/Robinson real estate manages about 3,500 coastal condominiums, said business has picked up substantially since Gov. Kay Ivey allowed the state’s beaches to reopen on Thursday.

“When the governor made the announcement, right away we booked about eight times what we did the previous day. It had an immediate effect,” he said in an interview Friday.

With people trying to get back to the coast after weeks at home, bookings since Wednesday have been about 20% better than normal for this time of year, Brett said. But only about 30% of the company’s condominiums were reserved for this weekend compared to 75% in a normal year, Brett said, and business could still be only 70% of normal by July.

“We are expecting a much slower summer,” he said.

About 11,500 unemployment claims have been filed in Shelby County, where many jobs are tied to the hospitality industry around Birmingham. Despite often having the state's lowest jobless rate, the county is second-highest in the state per capita for claims behind rural Hale County since the coronavirus outbreak sent unemployment claims skyrocketing.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
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