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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: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
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