(WAFF) - Tourism is booming across Alabama in record numbers, and that is helping all taxpayers in the state.
Gov. Kay Ivey says that Alabama had more than 27 million guests for the first time in 2018. That is a million more than ever before in one year.
Ivey says tourists spent $15.5 billion in Alabama last year, which is $1.2 billion more than the previous year.
Those 27.7 million visitors paid $954 million in state and local taxes too.
Ivey says that saved the average Alabama family from paying $507 additional taxes to maintain current service levels.
The Alabama Tourism Department released a report on Monday showing the industry grew by 8.5 percent statewide.
Here are the county growth rates for north Alabama from 2016 to 2018:
- Morgan - 24.5 percent
- Jackson - 18.9 percent
- Colbert - 12.7 percent
- Limestone - 10.7 percent
- Madison - 6.8 percent
- Marshall - 6.6 percent
- Dekalb - 4.2 percent
- Lauderdale - 2.7 percent
Franklin County’s tourism dropped by 12.6 percent. Lawrence County’s fell by 0.2 percent.
Visitors spent an estimated $1.4 billion in Madison County last year. At a news conference in Huntsville, tourism officials said Madison has become the third most-visited county in the state.
They said the county had 3.3 million visitors last year, a 6 percent increase over 2017.
And the money spent by tourists saved every household in the county $850 in taxes, by helping to pay for education and law enforcement.
“Hospitality is the core and the value in this tourism industry. And our residents are often the top ambassadors. They are locals and they have the power to create meaningful memories and positive experiences for our visitors. This hospitality leads to enthusiastic visitors who become great promoters for our region," said Tami Reist with the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.
Speakers at Monday’s event said tourism creates opportunities to develop new amenities, special events and recreation facilities that may not be otherwise possible.
According to Decatur Morgan County Tourism President Danielle Gibson, that county’s growth can be attributed to several soccer tournaments and multiple festivals, including the hot air balloon festival, Spirit of America and the Trail of Tears Conference.
Jackson County’s tourism director said their growth is due to Google setting up shop in 2016. He also says all the fishing tournaments at Lake Guntersville give that number a boost too.