(Gulf Shores, AL) Gov. Kay Ivey told the state’s tourism industry today that she is awarding $1 million to fund a certification program and prepare up to 2,000 students to join the state’s $16 billion hospitality industry. Leaders requested the funds, citing a shortage of new employees entering the workforce since the Covid pandemic began two years ago.
The governor announced that the state industry rebounded by 25 percent in 2021 over the previous year when the international travel and hospitality was staggered by the widespread transmission of the virus. Students will be able to train online through the Alabama Community College System at locations scattered across the state.
She congratulated the industry’s widespread adoption of masks and other safety protocols to stem the person-to-person spread of the virus in hotels, restaurants and other venues. More than 300 industry leaders began their annual conference at the state’s highly rated Gulf State Park in Baldwin County.
State tourism director Lee Sentell, who forwarded the industry’s funding request to the governor, thanked tourism leaders in Birmingham, Mobile and the Gulf Coast, among other areas, for sharing their goals of attracting more potential staff. Students will train within the community college system’s 24 colleges at more than 130 locations across the state. The system served more than 174,000 students, awarding more than 22,400 degrees and certifications in a recent year.
The certification programming has been in development by the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation through the Alabama Community College System Innovation Center.
“The ACCS Innovation Center is to train Alabamians for Alabama jobs with curriculum designed by Alabama’s business and industry,” ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker said. “Our ability to deliver rapid, non-credit training for the state’s most in-demand career fields will lead to increased certifications among Alabama’s workforce and help reach Governor Ivey’s SuccessPlus attainment goal.”
“It is an honor to work with the Alabama Tourism Department to provide rapid training for the state’s tourism and hospitality industries at such a crucial time,” said Mara Harrison, Interim Director of the ACCS Innovation Center. “This online training was created alongside Alabama businesses, features Alabama businesses, and ensures that when an individual earns a credential, that person is job-ready on day one of employment.”
Sentell said, “To our knowledge, no other state is approaching workforce development by making it virtually accessible to all citizens ages 16 and older. We know tourism revenue makes an economic impact for Alabama, and that spending generates jobs in other sectors. This project has the potential to not only bring new professionals into our industry but to also create opportunities for Alabamians as a whole.”
According to the tourism department’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, the state’s tourism industry employed more than 165,000 workers last year. An economic impact analysis using a model developed by Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi said that every $119,842 in travel industry spending creates one direct job in Alabama. Some 111,482 direct jobs led to the creation of 53,747 additional, indirect jobs.
The Alabama Tourism Department works to inspire consumers and facilitate travel to and within Alabama while leveraging increased involvement by the private sector. An appointed board of industry advisors connects the department with tourism businesses and organizations throughout the state. Tourism is a key sector of the state’s economy, historically attracting 28 million tourists who spend $16.8 billion in leisure and hospitality sales and employing more than 200,000 full and part-time workers. The industry represents 7% of Alabama’s private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates in excess of one billion dollars of the state’s sales tax revenues.
Contact: Andi Martin, Public Relations Manager
Alabama Tourism Department