A South Baldwin economic development group is playing host to members of the Alabama Legislature who serve on two committees dealing with tourism, one from the House and one from the Senate.
The Gulf United Metro Business Organization (GUMBO) will have a three-day event with its Legislative Tourism Economic Development Summit at The Lodge at Gulf State Park Oct. 16 to 18. Guests arrive at the lodge for dinner on Oct. 16, attend seminars all day on Oct. 17 and leave after breakfast on Oct. 18.
They’ll hear a report from Alabama Department of Tourism Director Lee Sentell for an overview of Alabama tourism. President and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism Herb Malone will give a presentation on the state of Gulf Coast tourism. Director of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Chris Blankenship will have an in-depth report on the new Gulf State lodge and convention center.
Lagniappe has reported on the failure of the state to disclose financial details and other terms of a 22-year contract with Valor Hospitality Partners for the management of the lodge and other park amenities since the ribbon was cut last November.
President of CEO of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance Lee Lawson will talk about the South Alabama Mega Site near Bay Minette, where his organization is currently making improvements in an effort to recruit tenants. It has been vacant since the Baldwin County Commission purchased the 3,000-acre site for $32 million in 2012.
GUMBO’s secretary-treasurer, President and CEO of the South Baldwin Chamber Donna Watts, said the goal is to impress upon the legislators the importance of Coastal Alabama to tourism in the state and how taxes collected here help everywhere in Alabama.
“The committee members are elected officials that literally live all over the state,” Watts said. “The bulk of the committee members live north of Montgomery. It’s important for the folks on the tourism committees making decisions about tourism to be able to understand the impacts and what it means to not just South Baldwin County or South Alabama but to the entire state.”
The annual tourism report issued every April has numbers to show how important the two coastal counties are to state funding. About $56.9 million went into the general fund from the state’s 4 percent lodging tax, with Baldwin contributing $24.1 million and Mobile contributing $5.9 million, nearly 53 percent of that total in 2018.
In 2018, $15.5 billion was spent in the state by tourists, with $4.7 billion spent in Baldwin County, which is 30 percent of the state total. In Mobile County, tourists spent $1.2 billion, and combining those numbers shows 38 percent of all money spent by tourists in the state was spent in Coastal Alabama.
Almost 27 percent of all travel-related jobs in Alabama are in Baldwin County. Combine that with Mobile’s 9 percent and Coastal Alabama provides 36 percent of the state’s tourism jobs.
More than 27.7 million people visited the state of Alabama during 2018 and 6.6 million, 23 percent of those, came to Baldwin County.
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