Tourism spending in Alabama has doubled over past 10 years

Lee Sentell Alabama Tourism Conference
Lee Sentell talks tourism at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2023. (The Bama Buzz)

At the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2023 on August 26-29, there was a lot to be proud of—including this. Tourism spending in Alabama has doubled over the past decade, and we bounced back big-time after 2020. Here are the numbers.

Tourism spending in Alabama is on the rise—here’s why

Trail In Alabama
Alabama’s natural beauty is one of the things that draws people from all around. (The Bama Buzz)

According to a presentation given by speakers at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism (including Lee Sentell, Alabama Tourism Director), spending by Alabama tourists from 2013-2022 was as follows:

  • 2013: $11B
  • 2014: $11.8B
  • 2015: $12.7B
  • 2016: $13.4B
  • 2017: $14.3B
  • 2018: $15.6B
  • 2019: $16.8B
  • 2020: $13.4B
  • 2021: $19.7B
  • 2022: $22.4B

Needless to say, Alabama tourism bounced back big-time after Covid.

“Nationwide, the industry was down 45%. Alabama was down 20%. We were #5 in least loss because—certainly we had no warning that Covid was coming—but we had started a three-year outdoor marketing campaign in January before Covid hit. So, we were already in the marketplace showcasing our state parks, the beaches, and all. Particularly people from the Midwest—who had never been to Alabama before—they came in record numbers.”

Lee Sentell, Alabama Tourism Director

And we’re not done yet. Tourism spending in Alabama, and Lee Sentell remarked that 2023 will be “another record year.”

“I think people learned a lot about Alabama during Covid. they discovered we had great beaches, campgrounds, state parks. and so I think they’re coming back.”

Lee Sentell, Alabama Tourism Director

Coming to Alabama from all around—including the UK + Kentucky

Alabama Tourism Orange Beach
Tourists from all around are loving Alabama’s pristine beaches. (The Bama Buzz)

Where are all these visitors coming from? Good question. It’s one that Lee Sentell enjoys answering on Saturdays.

“I’m the only person in the state that likes to be on I-65 on weekends, because I love to look at car tags and see where people are coming from.”

Lee Sentell, Alabama Tourism Director

You might think that Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee bring in the most tourists, but the data shows something different.

“We have a higher concentration of people from Kentucky than any other state. that’s not a stat that we generated. The National Tourism Industry gave us that information.”

Lee Sentell, Alabama Tourism Director

In addition, we see the most international spending from the UK/Ireland first, and Germany second. Visitor spending from the UK market is expected to reach $100 million by 2026.

Welcome center visitors in Alabama are up 1.6M since last year

Welcome Centers Alabama
File:Welcome, Alabama Welcome Center (Cleburne County).JPG” by Michael Rivera is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

As yet another testament to how much Alabama tourism is growing, welcome center visitors are way up. Here’s the numbers presented at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2023.

  • 2020: 356,288
  • 2021: 756,396
  • 2022: 1,692,220

People are discovering Alabama, and they’re loving it. Cheers, fellow Alabamians.

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Sarah Gronberg
Sarah Gronberg
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