Another top year for tourism on Alabama’s Gulf Coast
Visitors spend a record $5.2 billion in Baldwin County in 2019
GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – With the beaches and some businesses across Alabama starting to reopen, tourism officials received good news with the release of the Alabama Tourism Department’s Tourism Economic Impact Report. For the ninth consecutive year, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach continued to see a rise in taxable lodging rentals and retail sales. Baldwin County had another banner year with a record number of visitors to the area and for the first time, spending by those visitors surpassed $5 billion.
Tourism-related jobs (direct and indirect) in Baldwin County also increased to more than 54,000, up more than 3,000 positions from 2018, with Baldwin County leading the state with 26% of the tourism-related jobs in all of Alabama.
According to Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (GSOBT), Alabama’s beach destination ended the year with:
• Hotel Occupancy = 59.9% (-2.9%* compared to 2018)
o *Increased number of available hotel rooms compared to 2018 with the opening of The Lodge at Gulf State Park and Comfort Inn & Suites-Gulf Shores)
• Vacation Rental Occupancy = 49.9% (equal to 2018)
• Taxable Retail Sales = $983,224,390 (+4.8% compared to 2018)
• Taxable Lodging Revenue = $572,770,896 (+6.5% compared to 2018)
Combined with Mobile County as part of the Gulf Coast Region, Baldwin County helped account for 40% of the state’s travel industry.
• Estimated total visitors to Baldwin County = 6.8 million (6.5 million in 2018)
• Tourism-related jobs in Baldwin County = 54,262 (51,161 in 2018)
• Tourism-related spending in Baldwin County = $5.2 billion ($4.7 billion in 2018)
While 2019 was another tremendously successful year at the beach, the current coronavirus situation has a very different outlook going into the normally busy summer season. For Malone, a tourism industry veteran, it is hurtful to see the difference for business owners and their employees.
“More than 54,000 people work in the tourism industry here, and they have lost almost two months of their key season,” he stressed. “54,000 people who owe their livelihood to the millions of visitors who spent more than $5 billion – that’s billion with a b – in Baldwin County last year. That visitor spending covers paychecks for workers to provide for their families, allows businesses to expand or add new services and employees, and allows our cities to provide the quality of life improvements that we as locals enjoy.
Malone knows 2020 will be a very different year, but he is still optimistic for the coming summer season and rest of the year.
“We have already started to see a slight uptick in hotel and vacation rental reservations for the coming weeks, but occupancy is well below normal for this time of year. And that is okay – it allows our residents and our visitors to feel safe as we are easing back into this new version of the summer season.”
Malone added he sees encouraging signals and once restaurants and attractions can reopen, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are well positioned to get back to business.
“The Alabama Gulf Coast checks many of the boxes that multiple traveler sentiment studies are showing as top interests to Americans in the coming months,” he explains. “Road trip or a drive destination, small town, beaches, and outdoors and nature activities.
“We have set records for the last nine years,” says Malone. “I always say we know a setback will come, and it is not a matter of if, but when. Normally we expect those setbacks to come in the form of a storm, but this time it is a virus that is impacting the entire world. One thing we know from prior experiences: our guests are extremely loyal, and they will come back to our beaches when they are ready. And we look forward to welcoming them back … because we sure have missed them.”
Download for photos and GSOBT logos:
Credit: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
About Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism:
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism serves as the official destination marketing organization for the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in addition to the unincorporated area of Fort Morgan. To learn more about Alabama’s 32 miles of white-sand beaches, visit either GulfShores.com or OrangeBeach.com. This convention and visitors bureau is an accredited Destination Marketing Organization.