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.

Cases: 497379

Reported Deaths: 9907
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34085530
DeSoto31806398
Hinds31796621
Jackson24303377
Rankin21852387
Lee15413233
Madison14513278
Jones13770241
Forrest13401250
Lauderdale11936314
Lowndes10908184
Lamar10461135
Pearl River9428237
Lafayette8450137
Hancock7690126
Washington7361156
Oktibbeha7110129
Monroe6713173
Warren6635175
Neshoba6606204
Pontotoc6603101
Panola6458131
Marshall6378132
Bolivar6264145
Union595194
Pike5780152
Alcorn5630100
Lincoln5416134
George490479
Scott470698
Tippah464981
Prentiss464181
Leflore4626143
Itawamba4590104
Adams4570119
Tate4539109
Copiah444691
Simpson4419116
Wayne438572
Yazoo437586
Covington427194
Sunflower4215104
Marion4206107
Coahoma4114104
Leake407287
Newton380879
Grenada3691108
Stone358264
Tishomingo355991
Attala330189
Jasper328065
Winston312891
Clay305875
Chickasaw296567
Clarke290294
Calhoun277645
Holmes266587
Smith262550
Yalobusha232347
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217663
Greene215448
Lawrence211140
Perry204555
Amite203454
Webster201645
Noxubee184940
Montgomery178956
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167338
Tunica158539
Benton147038
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131037
Humphreys128838
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104339
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 811551

Reported Deaths: 15101
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1138721885
Mobile720161315
Madison51829685
Shelby37203339
Baldwin37018538
Tuscaloosa34853599
Montgomery33879718
Lee23097239
Calhoun22095468
Morgan20584368
Etowah19727496
Marshall18224298
Houston17270405
St. Clair15884337
Cullman15257289
Limestone15177197
Elmore14944283
Lauderdale14060294
Talladega13653270
DeKalb12530258
Walker11055363
Blount10071174
Autauga9874146
Jackson9760177
Coffee9171188
Dale8850180
Colbert8768200
Tallapoosa7028194
Escambia6714127
Covington6661179
Chilton6571160
Russell623458
Franklin5926105
Chambers5553142
Marion4942126
Dallas4848199
Clarke472681
Pike4713105
Geneva4557126
Winston4456101
Lawrence4247116
Bibb421186
Barbour355274
Marengo333889
Monroe329062
Randolph324663
Butler323694
Pickens313479
Henry310365
Hale308586
Cherokee299257
Fayette289779
Washington250850
Cleburne245758
Crenshaw243075
Clay238867
Macon229862
Lamar214846
Conecuh185051
Coosa177338
Lowndes173061
Wilcox166738
Bullock151744
Perry137940
Sumter130738
Greene125344
Choctaw86527
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 65°
Columbus
Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Oxford
Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 57°
Starkville
Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather