Travelers spent $12 million and were responsible for 159 jobs last year in Lawrence County, according to a report conducted for the Alabama Tourism Department by Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi.

Oakville Indian Mounds Cultural Resource Specialist Anna Mullican estimates that of that $12 million, Oakville accounts for about half of those funds for hosting at least four of the county’s top five events.

“We are estimating Oakville at $6 million or more for hosting four of the top five tourist events and for our museum traffic (Jesse Owens, Chickasaw Trails, State Cross Country and the Multicultural Indian Festival). The Strawberry Festival being the other largest,” Mullican said.

This year, the Multicultural Indian Event helped bring in an estimate of $10,000 over the span of two days and saw about 10,000 visitors, Mullican said last week.

Following this year’s Strawberry Festival, Director Stanley Johnson said the event saw the highest attendance on Friday, May 4, and over two days raised about $5,000 for local school groups that had set up booths during the festival.

This figure does not account for the money raised by other private vendors and local organizations who participated in the festival. Johnson said about $700 was raised for the Jesse Owens Runners Club after expenses were paid.

“The total tourism benefits to our county come from tourists coming in to see these events and attractions, and then spending money in our downtown shops, our restaurants, and buying gas,” Mullican said.

She said surrounding cities like Decatur and Cullman also benefit from tourists who come to visit Lawrence County when visitors who travel long distances stay in area hotels.

The tourism industry generates millions of dollars for state and local government, Deravi said.

The hospitality industry was responsible for $681 million in state taxes and an additional $273 million in local revenue for a total of $954 million. This reflects an increase of 8.5 percent over the previous year, according to the study. 

Some $76 million was generated in state lodgings taxes, of which 75 percent benefits the State General Fund.

The Alabama travel industry grew by more than $1 billion in 2018 to a record of $15.5 billion in expenditures, and increased jobs by 11,984 to some 198,890 employees, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Tuesday.

She noted that the industry grew by 8.5 percent and attracted more than one million additional visitors to top 27 million guests for the first time.

Deravi says that without those taxes, each household in Alabama would have had to pay $507 in additional taxes to maintain current service levels.

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