Report: Tourism spending up in state, down in county

Published 6:36 pm Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Preliminary reports show tourism spending dropped in Pike County during 2013, despite a 3 percent increase across the state.

Travelers spent $56 million and were responsible for 870 jobs last year in Pike County, according to preliminary estimates from the Alabama Tourism Department. That spending today is down from $57 million in 2012.

The report, conducted by Auburn University Montgomery, estimates the tourism industry grew by 3 percent with more than 24 million visitors providing an economic impact of $11 billion in 2013.

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Alton Starling, Troy city clerk/treasurer, said he would have to see the data the tourism department used to make the preliminary estimates before he could make any determination as to why traveler spending would have dropped from the $57 million reported in 2012.

Starling said Troy sales tax revenue should have been impacted with a $1 million dip in traveler spending, citing a 1.8 percent increase in city sales tax revenues during 2013. “I’d just have to look at the data used to know how to explain traveler spending being down,” he said.

Harry Sanders, Pike County administrator, said he was surprised that traveler spending would be down in Pike County. “A million dollars is a lot of money and I would have thought that traveler spending would have been up,” he said.

Brundidge City Manager Britt Thomas, said a million dollars is a lot of money.

“But so is $56 million,” Thomas said. “I would think if traveler spending in Pike County went down rather than up, it is related to families cutting back on travel and entertainment. There’s no way to pinpoint it. But, with the way the economy has been, a lot of people are cutting back on travel and finding more to do closer to home.”

Pike County’s travel dollars come primarily from lodging, gas and food as do travel dollars around the state.

According to the Alabama Tourism Department report, travelers spent money on hotels, restaurants, retail purchases and transportation with every $98,170 in travel industry spending creating one direct job in Alabama. Additionally, for every two direct jobs created, the state’s economy indirectly creates another job.

“The state’s tourism numbers for 2013 bring great economic news for Alabama,” said Lee Sentell, state tourism director. “The dollars spent on tourism create jobs, grow local economies and generate needed tax revenues. Without the dollars collected by the tourism industry each household in the state would end up paying almost $400 in additional taxes.”

Over the 10-year-period from 2003 to 2013, travel spending in Alabama has increased 51 percent according to the report conducted by Auburn University Montgomery. The top five counties with the largest travel-related expenditures are Baldwin County with $3.2 billion in travel-related spending, Jefferson County was second with $1.6 billion, Madison County was third at $997 million, Mobile County ranked fourth with more than $916 million and Montgomery County was fifth with $661 million.