Alabama’s beaches see record tax revenues through August 2022
GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (GSOBT) has released partial-year tourism figures for 2022 and the numbers through August show a very solid year so far. The tourism office was the featured speaker at First Friday Forum, hosted by the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber last Friday, Nov. 4. President & CEO Beth Gendler says the numbers are a testament to the area continuing to sync with key travel trends – road trip destinations with a variety of outdoor activities – and meetings business returning.
“We saw a huge increase in meeting room nights this year,” explained Gendler. “This segment is up 47.4 percent, and we have worked with our hotel partners, at their request, to push meeting business to our shoulder seasons – a strategy that has obviously worked very well for our area.”
According to the tourism office, the Alabama Department of Revenue reports taxable lodging revenues for Alabama’s Beaches through August beat last year’s all-time high for the same time frame – $747 million this year compared to $668 million through August 2021. This amount is higher than the total for all of 2019, the previous pre-pandemic record year. Taxable retail sales through August hit $1.1 billion for the first time, the second consecutive year for this category to top $1 billion before the end of the year. For most of this year, occupancy levels for both hotels and vacation rentals have hovered between pre-pandemic levels and 2021 record-setting levels.
Gendler added that short-term vacation rentals make up the majority of lodging inventory in the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan area – more than 14,000 total units are available as short-term rentals.
“Once again, we have seen strong numbers in terms of occupancy, lodging tax and retail sales tax revenue, which continues to show our growth towards being a year-round vacation destination,” said Gendler. “While summer is still our most popular time for guests to come enjoy our beaches, we are seeing winter, spring and fall hitting close to 50 percent occupancy for vacation rentals. This level of steady occupancy in what has traditionally been our slower months means steady employment for our more than 63,600 local tourism-related workers.”
Increases in revenue generally mean an increase in visitors, but Gendler says final visitation estimates and tourism economic impact for 2022 will not be completed by the state until the spring of next year. According to last year’s Economic Impact Report by the Alabama Tourism Department, Baldwin County welcomed eight million guests who spent $7.3 billion with area businesses, resulting in 63,628 travel-related jobs that generated $2.4 billion in wages and salaries. But according to Gendler, Alabama’s Beaches weathered the challenges of the last two years – the COVID pandemic and a major hurricane – better than many other destinations.
“One thing our guests have proven to us time and again when our area faces a crisis is how very loyal they are to choosing Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan as their favorite beach vacation,” added Gendler. “And their loyalty is vital to the economy of this community.”
“We are a tourism economy; tourism is the number one industry in our area and one of the top industries in Alabama.,” she continued. “Our community is made up of many small businesses that serve our guests, businesses owned by local residents – our friends and neighbors. The last two years have been immensely tough for those business owners to find workers. Our destination has historically had a slight worker shortage in our peak summer season, but unfortunately finding workers continues to be challenging here and in communities across Alabama and the country. With the continuing residential and visitor growth in our part of Baldwin County, the expectation for quality service at area businesses is high, so we have to do something to shore up our local workforce to meet the demand.”
To address the workforce issue, Gendler says the Gateway Initiative – a coalition of the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and others including the tourism office – has developed a plan for a facility that would provide much-needed housing for up to 2,000 seasonal workers, an education and training center, a childcare center, and more.
“South Baldwin County continues to grow – both in terms of full-time residents and in guests who choose our area for their vacation,” added Gendler. “That growth is a blessing.”
Gendler explained, “Our mission at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is ‘To market the Alabama Gulf Coast as a year-round destination, while stewarding a thoughtful, sustainable level of growth, thus enhancing the economy and quality of life for all residents’.” Our role goes beyond just inviting guests to come here for their vacation; our role truly impacts the quality of life of the people who live here because the money our guests spend has a major impact on city budgets. Strong budgets have allowed our cities to create such a great community with so much to offer in terms of quality of life; that quality of life is what makes people want to visit here and want to move here and open or move businesses here. Tourism, quality of life, and economic development are truly intertwined.”
# # #
About Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism:
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism serves as the official destination marketing organization for the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in addition to the unincorporated area of Fort Morgan. To learn more about Alabama’s 32 miles of white-sand beaches, visit either GulfShores.com or OrangeBeach.com. This convention and visitors bureau is an accredited Destination Marketing Organization.
Slides or Interviews
For additional slides showing occupancy and tax revenues or to set up an interview with Beth Gendler, contact Public Relations Manager Kay Maghan at email@example.com or 251-752-8448.