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Tourism dollars, traffic on the rise

As Greenville gears up to receive its new Korean neighbors and the prosperity those industries are expected to generate, it’s an added bonus to know that the &uot;tried and true&uot; tourist industry is still alive and well, adding sales tax revenue to the city’s coffers, especially in the summer months as tourist travel increases.

The Alabama State Department of Travel and Tourism reported that 18.3 million people visited the state in 2002, spending $6.5 billion – a 7 percent increase over 2001 – and adding $417 million in state and local tax revenue from tourism dollars.

The tourism department estimates that for every dollar a tourist spends in Alabama, the state retains $.41.

Tourism gave the state’s residents 139,000 jobs last year, and employees earned an estimated $2.6 billion in tourist-related income last year. The projections so far are that those numbers will be on track for this year.

The most visited counties in the state were Baldwin, Jefferson, Madison, Mobile and Montgomery, accounting for 63 percent of the total number of visitors to the state.

Seven counties accounted for 73 percent of tourist-generated employment: Baldwin, Jefferson, Madison, Montgomery, Mobile, Shelby and Tuscaloosa.

Businesses located adjacent to Interstate 65 receive the bulk of tourist dollars that stop in Butler County.

&uot;Things are looking good so far this summer,&uot; Cracker Barrel’s management reported. &uot;Our sales are up 35 to 40 percent over our spring numbers. That’s a normal figure for this time of year; tourists dollars increase significantly during the summer months.&uot;

Cracker Barrel didn’t have its numbers for the past year available, but the manager said his sales have been steady.

Charlene Simpson, Shoney’s manager, says her sales also have been up about 35 percent from spring.

&uot;This is traditionally a really good time for us,&uot; she said. &uot;You can always tell when the tourist hit the road. It’s been steady.&uot;

The managers said they didn’t feel tourist dollars had increased or decreased significantly in recent years.

&uot;That too seems steady,&uot; Cracker Barrel’s manager said. &uot;I wasn’t with the company during the September 11 events, but during my time at the Greenville store, business has been good. I haven’t noticed much change.&uot;