A long holiday weekend along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere is helping to bring about a surge in tourism in Alabama, and officials hope visitors will set another record for spending in 2016.
Industry leaders say hotels and condominiums in Baldwin County reported high occupancy rates for the July 4 holiday, which coastal tourism promoter Kay Maghan said is considered the “super peak” of the beach season.
Alabama’s tourism director, Lee Sentell, said it all adds up to a profitable period for the hospitality and visitor industry, particularly with the strengthening economy.
“A Fourth of July weekend like this, with the holiday being on a Monday, is the best of all possible combinations for free days for families,” said Sentell.
However, just because Alabama’s tourism rates have spiked with the holiday weekend doesn’t mean that all citizens in Alabama will be getting that much needed vacation time this summer.
The latest News 5/Strategy Research Poll findings state that most families in Lower Alabama will not take a vacation this summer. If they do, they will likely head to the beach.
Still, vacancy rates are miniscule at area beaches. Tourism officials say the only sign of uncertainty is that fewer people are choosing to book in advance.
“It’s been great so far,” said Steve Hayes, President of Visit Pensacola which promotes tourism across Escambia County, Florida. “The only difference that we’ve seen is some shorter bookings rather than booking farther out. But I think that’s probably some uncertainty in the economy but there is still a demand for travel out there.”
“One of the reasons that they may be going to the beach, right around the corner, is cost,” pollster Jon Gray said. “It’s closer to home. You can get a condo and put several families together. It’s a way to save money.”
Almost 53% of employed U.S. citizens report feeling refreshed after coming back from vacation, and sometimes a simple beach vacation may just do the trick.
Tourism has grown steadily in Alabama since 2010, the year the BP oil spill resulted in canceled room reservations, empty restaurants, and overstocked stores all along the Gulf.
Tourists spent a record $12.7 billion in the state last year, an increase of about $1 billion from the previous year. With tourism in Alabama back on the rise, the state has a bright summer to look forward to.