Friday morning, business and industry leaders from across Baldwin County gathered at the Orange Beach Event Center for the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber’s First Friday Forum sponsored by Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. Herb Malone, President and CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, reported significant growth in several key areas impacted by tourism including lodging and retail revenue.
“Once again, we have seen strong numbers in terms of lodging tax and retail sales tax revenue, which continues the trend we have experienced since 2011,” said Malone. “We know summer is our most popular time for guests to come enjoy our beaches, but we are also seeing more guests enjoying our area in the other seasons of the year.”
According to Malone and the Alabama Department of Tourism Economic Report, the destination saw 6.6 million visitors in 2018, up from just 5.7 million in 2014. Visitor spending reached $4.7 billion, up by $1.2 billion in just four years.
Since 2015, taxable lodging revenue has grown by an average of 8.6 percent each year. Likewise, retail sales have seen an average increase of 6.3 percent in that time. These revenue sources are crucial to the continued investment in the tourism industry of Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
In 1993, the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) was founded as the official destination marketing organization for the areas of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan. The CVB expanded in 2005 with the creation of the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission. In 2010, the CVB was renamed Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, and last year celebrated 25 years since its inception.
In addition to strong economic growth, Malone highlighted national media recognition of the destination this year. Some of the destination’s accolades include AARP’s “Best Beaches,” Golf Advisor’s “Top 50 Golf Courses in the U.S,” Reader’s Digest’s “Best Zoo in Every State,” Southern Living’s “South’s Best Beach Towns,” and USA Today’s “Best Small-Town Food Scene.”