Submitted / Alabama Black Belt Adventures Assocation Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth shares the news of the $1.1 billion economic impact brought by outdoors tourism in the Black Belt.

Hunters and anglers visiting the 23 counties in the Alabama Black Belt had an economic impact of $1.1 billion on the region in 2018, according to a study by Southeast Research of Montgomery released at a press conference Wednesday.

Those outdoorsmen and women supported 24,716 jobs in the region that paid $364 million in salaries and wages. State and local taxes paid by those who spent their dollars in the Black Belt while hunting and fishing amounted to $62 million with $28 million going to the Alabama Education Trust Fund, the report said.

“This study shows that outdoor tourism is an incredible economic driver for the Black Belt,” said Thomas A. Harris, founder and president of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, a not-for-profit organization that works to market the region to outdoors enthusiasts across the nation. “The 24,000-plus jobs created are very important to the citizens in the region, many of whom might not have other employment opportunities. The local communities and our state are collecting $62 million in taxes that benefit everyone in the region. We’re proud that this year we’re celebrating 10 years of helping attract hunters and anglers and others who want to vacation in the Black Belt to enjoy the outdoors.”

According to the study, 1.2 million hunters in Alabama spent an estimated $3.2 billion in 2018. Statewide, an estimated 73,500 jobs were supported by hunters and anglers and $185 million was generated for state and local taxes with $84 million going to the Education Trust Fund.

Southeast Research used data from a national study from the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the American Sportfishing Association for its economic impact report. The company also polled hunting and fishing licensees who had shared their email addresses with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, assuming those to be representative of the total data file of hunters and anglers.

The survey also showed more than 40% of everyone who hunted in Alabama in 2018 were hunting in the Black Belt. Of non-residents hunting in the state, 66% were in the Black Belt. Hunters and anglers spent an estimated six million days hunting and 2.3 million days fishing in the Black Belt.

Southeast’s findings showed there were 363,900 visitors to the Black Belt in 2018 with 175,800 spending at least one night. The total number of overnight stays was 2.89 million, with 57,200 nights spent at a commercial lodge, 276,900 nights spent in a hotel/motel and 433,100 nights spent at a campground in a recreational vehicle. Just over half of the visitors — 50.6% — own or rent property in the Black Belt. The total amount of lodging taxes generated by hunters and anglers in the Black Belt was almost $1.4 million.

The study showed the Black Belt brand has a great deal of value among out-of-state hunters. Days spent hunting in the Black Belt was almost unchanged from a 2011 study at 66% and days spent fishing in the region increased by 11 percentage points to 29%.

The ALBBAA also unveiled two new 30-second TV advertisements that will reach 24% of the nation’s household viewers. Gray Television, which acquired Raycom Media early this year, will continue Raycom’s partnership with ALBBAA in broadcasting the commercials sharing the Black Belt’s outdoor tourism message on its almost 150 affiliates.

A book signing for “Black Belt Bounty,” a new coffee table book published for the 10th anniversary of the ALBBAA to commemorate the traditions of hunting and fishing in the Black Belt region, was held immediately following the press conference. Among the contributors to the deluxe hardcover book on hand were James Beard award-winning Alabama chefs Chris Hastings and David Bancroft, celebrity chef Stacy Lyn Harris and several wildlife artists, photographers and outdoors writers.

The Black Belt includes the following counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is committed to promoting and enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Black Belt in a manner that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens. For information, go to www.alabamablackbeltadventures.org.