Crisis Damage to Tourism — 10 Percent of the Ala. Economy

The Grand Hotel Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear

The Alabama tourism industry, which reached a high of $15.5 billion in 2018 and accounted for 10 percent of the total state economy, is at risk of being erased from the ledger in 2020, owing to the ongoing virus crisis.

Alabama tourism analyst Mark Fagan isn’t marking up the damage as a total wash for the year, but he stops just short of that, noting that “COVID-19 mitigation actions will limit travel to Alabama during its peak season for tourism — 59 percent of tourism spending is typically from April through September.”

Fagan, a longtime consultant for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and other Alabama tourism venues, recently shared his observation in an article “Projected Impact on Alabama’s Tourism Industry from COVID-19 Pandemic.”

His analysis notes the decline in Alabama tourism following the September 11, 2001 collapse of the New York Trade Center towers, when annual tourism spending grew only 6 percent, compared to greater than 10 percent seen in most years.

“The current containment actions closely compare to travel reductions following the terrorist attack in New York on 9-11-2001,” says Fagan, but adds, “The economic consequences could be much worse.”

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“Increased testing for COVID-19 will show more cases, which could lead to more shutdowns and sheltering in place,” says Fagan. “The worst numbers are yet to come for the U.S. for the total number of cases and deaths.

“There are lost opportunities from the missed travel that cannot be made up. There could be some pent-up demand that could lead people to slowly begin to travel, but you cannot make people travel, eat out at restaurants or engage in entertainment activities. The longer the economic shutdown, the greater the impact on Alabama.”

Fagan has been writing about economic development and retirement development for 35 years. He retired as a professor at Jacksonville State University in 2012. He has been a consultant with The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail since 1992.

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