Tourism is the largest non agricultural industry in DeKalb and in the State of Alabama. The dollars spent by tourists in our area are critical to the economy of our area, so much so that if there were no dollars spent by tourists in DeKalb County every household in DeKalb would have to pay an extra $230 in taxes just to make up the difference.
Every year at this time the state of Alabama releases its tourism economic impact report. We just got ours for DeKalb County. Last year tourists spent 75 million dollars in DeKalb. This is 75 million dollars that our cities, county and state collected tax revenue from. This is a 4.8% increase over 2013 and in a time of a slow overall economy in our area tourism has managed to continue to grow. This is good considering that we have lost a couple attractions and not gained new ones. Sequoyah Caverns closed a couple years ago and we lost our legendary Mentone Springs Hotel. The good news is DeSoto S.P. is adding an attraction with a zip line under construction now and the JSU Canyon Center is growing rapidly in the number of events held there and the attendance is growing. In addition there are long term growth items in the works such as the One World Adventure, Beck Building Discovery Center, and the Lookout Gateway Trail system which is 60 miles of multipurpose trails connecting Fort Payne and Mentone to an extensive trail system on top of Lookout Mountain. There is a Cultural Arts Center in the works for Mentone and a Main Street program for Fort Payne. These are all in planning stages and when funded and in operation will greatly help tourism.
The number of visitors to our area continues to grow too. Our lodging was up 4.8% also and the headcount at Little River Canyon is continuing to rise. Visitors love our area and they come back year after year. Our hometown group Alabama is out there on concert dates and they are recording and continuing to win awards. They are in the process of sprucing up the Fan Club and Museum and have great things planned for fan appreciation weekend this June 18th-21st this summer.
The State of Alabama has also continued to grow in tourism. Last year tourists spent 11.8 billion dollars in our state generating $43,400 for the general fund of Alabama. People love the diversity of the scenery in Alabama from the mountains in the north to the black belt, the coastal plains and the gulf coast.
Long before I ever visited Alabama I learned in 5th grade geography class that Alabama was the only state in the continental U.S. that could be self sufficient without other states. We have costal waterways, a great river system and changing soil conditions across the state to allow for a general array of crop, tree and animal farming.
For more information about upcoming events and things to do and see in DeKalb, visit our website at www.tourdekalb.com or call us at 256-845-3957.