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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: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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