Streak continues: September marks 16 consecutive months of record-breaking room tax collections

Britany and Aaron Saraco of Raleigh escort their children down a walkway at Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach over the 2021 Labor Day holiday. The family helped contribute to record-breaking occupancy tax collections in September. (Cheryl Burke photo)

CARTERET COUNTY — For the 16th month in a row, Carteret County has broken the record for monthly occupancy tax collections in September, topping $1 million in revenue for the month and bringing the yearly total to over $11.2 million.

The county collected $1,183,537 in occupancy taxes in September, an increase of 18% over last year’s figure, according to the latest numbers provided by the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority. The TDA receives half the occupancy proceeds – derived from a 6% tax on gross receipts from all temporary lodgings in the county – to use primarily on advertising. The Carteret County Shore Protection Office receives the other half of the tax, which goes toward the county’s beach nourishment fund.

Last September was the first time collections for that month topped $1 million, the TDA’s figures show. Before then, collections for the month usually hovered in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, meaning the revenue this year nearly doubled what is typically seen in September.

With $11,273,101 collected in occupancy taxes for the 2021 calendar year through September, the county has already obliterated the yearly collection record set in 2020 with several months left to go. The county collected just more than $9 million in calendar year 2020, which itself beat the previous collection record by nearly $1.5 million.

By the end of August this year, the county had already collected more than $10 million.

TDA Executive Director Jim Browder said recently it’s possible the streak could continue into next year, if early bookings are any indication.

“I have heard sporadically from some vacation rental companies that it looks like next year is looking really strong, so far, maybe even better than this year,” he said during a TDA board of directors’ meeting Nov. 9.

Mr. Browder acknowledged part of the increase could be due to some vacation rental companies raising rates to meet elevated demand, but he thinks unusually high visitation is the main factor driving the collection streak. While many other vacation destinations have struggled through the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Browder said Carteret County offered an attractive option for people looking to get away during the pandemic.

“Without sounding like a broken’s very appealing for people who wanted an outdoor destination to get away from crowds,” he noted.

Revenues for September were up for every collection category, including condominiums/cottages, hotels/motels, online bookings and “other.” Broken down by location, Emerald Isle consistently leads the county in share of occupancy tax collections, followed by Atlantic Beach, then Morehead City.

In an attempt to attract even more visitation to the Crystal Coast, the TDA recently sent out requests for proposals for a company to conduct a brand assessment and possible rebrand. The TDA held a kickoff workshop during its meeting Nov. 9 in which members worked through series of exercises identifying strengths and weaknesses of the current brand a setting goals for a potential rebrand.

The TDA has been tossing around the idea of rebranding the area as the Southern Outer Banks rather than the Crystal Coast for years, and hopes with the formal brand assessment it will have a clear path forward for its messaging.


Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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