We decided to use an excerpt from a couple of years ago to preface the article discussing the 2014 taxable lodging revenue.
The tourism numbers were for the Summer were provided and, as expected, the Summer of 2014 has eclipsed all previous years and set the new standard. New taxable lodging revenue has surpassed the $300 million mark for the first time according to information released for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach this past week. "We only have 2 months of the year left and what we’ve collected so far in business revenue is in excess of what we made last year" said Herb Malone, CEO and president for the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach tourism board. "Last year was a record year, so we’ve set back-to-back records two years in a row in 2011 and 2012."
According to reports, these numbers were up 17% through September; this time last year. This constitutes a double-digit growth over each of the past two years and this is really amazing in terms of growth. Statistics from the tourism board show 4.9 million guests poured in the the area enjoying the beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast. These visitors spent approximately $2.6 billion and supported about 40,000 travel-related jobs and provided over $906 million in salary and wages. Malone personally projected the 2012 taxable lodging revenue to reach $320 million.
The information above discussed the tourism numbers from 2011 and projections for 2012. We've skipped forward two years and will look back at the projections for Orange Beach and Gulf Shores tourism and how they correlate to tourism numbers so far through 2014.
Tourism on the beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast has steadily increased for three years running and doesn't appear to have any plans of letting 2014 derail its incessant growth. As a matter of fact, the 2014 tourism group for Orange Beach and Gulf Shores has projected taxable lodging revenue will eclipse $375 million in 2014. This constitutes an approximate seven percent increase from 2013's, then record, $350 million. These numbers were taken from lodging tax records which are provided by state and local governments through the end of October.
Herb Malone is the president and CEO for these Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Tourism Board. Mr. Malone said that with 10 months of data to use for 2014, the final tally would indicate an increase in growth ranging between seven and seven and a half percent over 2013.
Comments from the annual tourism meeting, which was held at Lulu's Homeport, suggested that "lodging revenue" was the best and most accurate means to discern tourism-related figures. Retail sales, for example, require the implementation of various factors, like building supplies and local resident spending. But, the vast majority of expenditures, like beach houses, hotels, condos, bed and breakfasts and RV parks can be tracked through the lodging tax itself.
The continuous growth in annual revenue has steadily climbed since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and clean-up caused a down year in 2010. Looking back, 2011 had a revenue figure of $280 million, 2012 saw $325 million and 2013 holds the current record with $350 million in annual rental revenue. This is a huge leap as each of the three years prior saw revenue totals between $230 and $236 million.
Malone noted in a post meeting interview the importance of sports tourism in the local economy. Events such as the SEC Soccer Championships and the NAIA National Track and Field Championships play a significant role in revenue generation. The tourism bureau reported that the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Sports Commission will host a total of 95 events during the 2014 calendar year. These events should generate approximately 76,000 lodging nights and accommodation reservations for the 2014 year; up almost 6.5 percent over 2013. The Gulf Shores Sportsplex is home the track and field events and high school and youth sporting events and the Orange Beach Sportsplex hosts the soccer tournaments. (There is considerable growth planned for the area's sporting venues.) The tourism group also expect the 220 scheduled meetings to generate 58,000 lodging nights and accommodation reservations. This number is also a 6.5 percent increase, approximately, over last year.
"Sports tourism has been one of the fastest growing elements that we've had," Malone said. "If you look at the seven or eight year trend that we've been tracking, that's been outgrowing everything else that we do. A lot of that is a testament to the quality of the facilities that both our cities have invested in and the great teamwork that happens between them."
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