Thursday, July 21, 2016

Record summer for tourism by John Dersham

We are well on our way to a record summer in tourism in the United States according to the U.S. Travel Association. Early reports say the July 4th holiday was the largest in history as far as number of people travelling. Alabama is reporting record numbers, as well, and so are we.  We are nearly 10 percent above last year, using our year to date numbers and our numbers come in from the state revenue office 60 days in arrears. This means we do not have our June and July numbers yet. I am expecting, judging from the visitors seen and reported by attractions and lodging partners throughout DeKalb County, that the growth over last year will be well over 10%...we hope.
Some of the contributors to this growth are due to an overall strengthening of the U.S. economy and lower gas prices than the last number of years. Our travel industry is hopeful the trend will continue and growth will continue. Both Alabama and DeKalb are growing at a steady rate. As the state of Alabama continues to become an increasingly popular destination, every area of our state will benefit from the publicity and added national and international attention the state is receiving.
In a few weeks we will end our summer travel season with our largest single attendance event of the year with the World’s Longest Yard Sale (WLYS). This event is held this year from August 4-7, officially, but many vendors and a lot of activity on our section of the yard sale (located on the Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway) will begin as early as the weekend prior. Event promoters estimate the total number of visitors along the WLYS route from Gadsden to the Georgia state line should exceed 25,000 -30,000. Despite the size of this number many people agree the WLYS is not as big as its peak in the late 90’s thru 2005. The reason is demographic. The biggest portion of support for the yard sale has been the Mature/Silent (sometimes known as the Greatest Generation) and the Baby Boomer population both of  which are aging out  of the collector buying process and the X-Generation and Millennia’s, as a whole, do not have a material driven culture. They tend to accumulate less with an emphasis on engagement in travel, entertainment and culinary pleasures. None the less, the WLYS will continue to be a major tourism event for the foreseeable future.