AUBURN, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that Alabama is on pace to set a record in tourism spending by the end of the year.

“It looks like the industry is going to exceed $24 billion — with a ‘b’ — this calendar year,” Ivey said.

During the annual Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Auburn, Ivey said since 2013, Alabama’s tourism industry has more than doubled, growing from about $11 billion to now more than $24 billion, barring any unexpected downturns.

“It’s due to the hardworking efforts of the folks involved in tourism and I’m just proud to be a part of it,” Ivey said.

Tourism Director Lee Sentell says the state bounced back from COVID better than other states. While tourism spending dipped roughly 45% nationally in 2020, it fell just 20% in Alabama.

“We were in the top five states with the least loss. It’s because people discovered our state parks and our beaches, our outdoor recreation. They’ve liked it so much they’ve come back,” Sentell said.

Sentell attributes some of that success to an ad campaign granted by the governor with $10 million of CARES Act money. The tourism department put out digital ads highlighting two attractions in each county.

“During that campaign, we got more searches according to Google search than California, Texas, Florida, because we were advertising specific attractions in counties that these people have never heard about and so they responded to it,” Sentell said.

Ivey has high hopes for tourism in 2023, too.

“We’re just going to keep going. And I bet we’ll have an even bigger year,” Ivey said.

The governor says the next thing she’s looking forward to for tourism in the state is college football season kicking off this week.