MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The state tourism department reports that Alabama saw one of lowest drops in the nation in travel expenditures last year, a noteworthy accomplishment given the shutdowns that lasted for most of 2020.
The Alabama Tourism Department held a press conference Thursday afternoon outlining its report for 2020.
That report found that Alabama fared better than 45 other states when it comes to revenue from tourism.
Tourism dollars spent in Alabama dropped 20% last year, compared to the national average drop of 42%, according to Travel Economics.
A big reason for that is outdoor attractions like Alabama’s beaches. Alabama Tourism Department board Chairwoman Judy Ryals said beach tourism dollars helped the state rank among the country’s top five for smallest percentage drop in travel expenditures during the pandemics.
Tourism officials say even though beaches were closed for six weeks in the spring and one week due to a hurricane in the fall, Baldwin County only dropped 6%.
“That was one of the first things that people were comfortable in going out and visiting other communities. Also, we have such a strong drive market. So people driving in and then being able to be in the outdoor and get back to somewhat of a normal life and also get out and exercise and just enjoy our beautiful state,” said Ryals.
According to the Alabama Tourism Department, visitors overall spent $13.3 billion in the state for food, accommodations, travel, shopping and incidentals. Tourism officials say guests paid more than $890 million in state and local taxes, which in turn saved the average Alabama family an estimated $427 a year in taxes for services.
The tourism department reported that Alabama experienced the largest travel growth since 2019, rising 24 spots to number 6 nationwide, according to a recent Google study by Trips to Discover.
The most visited counties in our state last year were Baldwin, Jefferson, Madison, Mobile and Montgomery.