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May 1, 2015 - ATD Director Lee Sentell's Report Wednesday, 27 May 2015

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  The new Alabama Tourism Economic Impact Report showed the state earns about $5 in taxes from each $1 invested in tourism sales and marketing. Unlike most agencies that spend money from the General Fund, the tourism department earns $14 million in lodgings taxes for its operations and sends three times that amount ($42 million) to increase the General Fund, says Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi.

He calculates that 23 milli...on tourists spent $11.8 billion in the state. Tourists paid more than $548 million in state taxes with another $219 million in local taxes. Without spending by these visitors, each household in the state would have had to pay $408 in additional taxes.

Deravi says the seven largest counties captured 75 percent of the total. The remaining 60 counties are responsible for $3 billion in direct spending. “Those smaller counties greatly benefit from direct marketing and awareness activities initiated by the tourism department,” which yields an additional $68 million in state taxes.

In the past 12 years, the amount that tourists spend has grown by 79 percent. The number of tourism industry employees has grown by nearly 80 percent to about 165,000 Alabamians, said state tourism director Lee Sentell. During that time, the agency’s Montgomery office staff has been reduced by 20 percent because of attrition to rank as one of state government’s most efficient departments.

Aggressive advertising and promotion of Alabama’s destinations have greatly improved the state’s image, said Sentell. “Our award-winning restaurants, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and major attractions change the perception of our state,” he said.

In addition to grants that market hometown festivals, the department supports major events, such as IndyCar races in Birmingham, NASCAR races in Talladega, SEC baseball in Hoover and college football bowl games. Special promotions, such as the current Year of Alabama Barbecue, focus positive attention on the state.

At the direction of the Legislature, the tourism agency has developed contingency plans for a 15 percent cut and a 30 percent cut for operations next year.

Lee Sentell Alabama Tourism Department 401 Adams Avenue, Suite 126 Montgomery, AL  36104 334.242.4169

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