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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.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20901250
Hinds19953410
Harrison17551302
Rankin13358276
Jackson13141243
Madison9949211
Lee9886170
Jones8308161
Forrest7537147
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6286144
Lamar613284
Lafayette6063117
Washington5288133
Bolivar4775129
Oktibbeha457097
Panola4456103
Pearl River4433141
Warren4294118
Marshall4283101
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4061132
Union404675
Neshoba4001176
Lincoln3883109
Hancock373385
Leflore3470124
Sunflower330789
Tate325082
Pike3205105
Scott311272
Yazoo304769
Alcorn298865
Itawamba297477
Copiah293965
Coahoma290378
Simpson289486
Tippah285168
Prentiss276559
Marion266279
Leake261473
Wayne261441
Grenada256284
Covington254980
Adams246882
Newton245561
George238347
Winston226081
Tishomingo222467
Jasper219948
Attala213573
Chickasaw205257
Holmes186972
Clay183054
Stone179531
Clarke177576
Tallahatchie175940
Calhoun165231
Yalobusha159736
Smith159234
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126533
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113732
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica103025
Claiborne101330
Benton97425
Kemper95628
Humphreys94432
Franklin82723
Quitman78916
Choctaw73717
Wilkinson64928
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521201

Reported Deaths: 10736
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753981490
Mobile39011799
Madison34002496
Tuscaloosa25329444
Montgomery23996567
Shelby23160239
Baldwin20674302
Lee15567165
Calhoun14330311
Morgan14152271
Etowah13677346
Marshall11988220
Houston10402278
Elmore10008200
Limestone9843147
Cullman9501189
St. Clair9449234
Lauderdale9254228
DeKalb8756181
Talladega8104171
Walker7126275
Jackson6751110
Autauga6748103
Blount6511134
Colbert6225130
Coffee5418113
Dale4771111
Russell429338
Franklin420582
Chilton4100109
Covington4059114
Tallapoosa3904146
Escambia389574
Dallas3522149
Chambers3513122
Clarke346760
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295395
Winston273072
Bibb256059
Marengo248261
Geneva245975
Pickens233059
Barbour226255
Hale218675
Butler212867
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182544
Randolph177041
Monroe172440
Washington164738
Macon155548
Clay150055
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146341
Lamar139634
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124527
Bullock121540
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91334
Choctaw58724
Out of AL00
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Tupelo
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Hi: 65° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 64°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
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Oxford
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Feels Like: 59°
Starkville
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Expect mostly cloudy skies on your Friday with a few spotty showers moving through the area, especially into the late-afternoon and evening. Some will likely stick around into Saturday morning. Temperatures remain cooler than average.
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