July breaks all-time record for occupancy tax collections with $2.8M in revenue

Visitors walk near the water on Radio Island in June amid a surge in tourism to Carteret County. Occupancy tax collections broke the all-time record in July with more than $2.8 million in revenue. (Cheryl Burke photo)

EMERALD ISLE — Carteret County took in $2,820,611 in occupancy tax money in July, blowing away the previous one-month record of $2,416,802 set in July 2020.

The $403,809 differential represents a 16.7% increase over the previous record.

It was the 14th consecutive monthly record during a tourism boom that began in June 2020 during the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued through the current wave of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

“We have been discussing internally if we will ever be ‘full’ in July – and the answer is ‘not yet,’” Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph said in an email Friday. “We are up by 58% for the calendar year thus far, which totals $7,914,175.”

Mr. Rudolph said the total in 2020 stood at $7,832,947 in September, so “one could postulate that we’re two months ahead of schedule.”

The total occupancy tax collected for all of calendar year 2020 was $9.04 million, far above the $7.52 million total in 2019.

The money comes from a 6% tax on all rental accommodations in the county and the money is split 50-50 between the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority, which uses it to promote visitation, and the beach nourishment fund, which Mr. Rudolph’s office oversees.

TDA Executive Director Jim Browder told the News-Times recently the tourism authority has plans for advertisement campaigns this fall and winter to draw more visitors to Carteret County during the off-season.

Meanwhile, the nourishment fund ended fiscal year 2020-21 on June 30 at about $16.8 million, compared to $18.2 million before Hurricane Florence in September 2018.

 Since then, in calendar years 2019, 2020 and 2021, the county has spent $85 million – including grants from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency – to add close to 6 million cubic yards of sand to the Bogue Banks beaches in three nourishment projects, so Mr. Rudolph is pleased the fund has rebounded so quickly.

But if you add $1.4 million to the fund – half of the $2.8 million tax revenue in July – the fund stands at about $18.2 million, right where it was before Florence.

The county divides occupancy tax revenue into three sources: hotel-motel rentals, condo and cottage rentals and “other,” which are essentially online bookings.

“If you dive into the sector numbers …you will see that we are up all across the board, with the ‘other sector’ up significantly (73%),” Mr. Rudolph said in the email Friday.

“A lot of the online bookings are really derived from the rental of a condo/cottage – just not through a rental agency. Thus, the fact both the other/on-line and condo/cottages (sectors) are up is perhaps even more impressive.”

The online sector includes such private rental options as Vrbo and Airbnb, which until the last few years were not always captured by the county’s occupancy tax collection process.

In July, revenue from occupancy taxes in the hotel-motel sector was $519,040, up 9.8 percent from the previous July. The condo-cottage revenue in July was $1.74 million, up 7.6% from July 2020, and the “other” category generated $552,540 in July, up 73 percent from $318,578 in July 2020.

With experts predicting continued strong visitation in the fall, the calendar year total for occupancy tax collections is set to smash the previous record of $9.04 million in calendar year 2020. It currently stands at $7.9 million, with August through December to go.

In 2020, August and September were both million-dollar-plus months, with August close to $2 million at $1.83 million. October through December collections totaled $1.17 million. The slowest months are always December, January and February, never cracking $200,000 until January and February did so this year.

Total occupancy tax collections were $7.6 million in 2018 and $7.3 million in 2017.

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

(3) comments

drewski

85 million spent to add close to 6 million cubic yards of sand to the Bogue Banks beaches in three nourishment projects.

And where is that sand now?

Somehow the banks survived for eons?

The tunnel vision of tourism will come home to roost eventually. Like the recent article about mhc's inadequate infrastructure. What if this tax funded slush fund had been spent on something besides sand and mo mo mo tourist commercials?

beachmami13

It would be a great idea if the county spent the money wisely instead of wasting it on more luxuries & if MHC has such bad infrastructure, perhaps they should have used some of the $$ on improving that instead of wasting it all on the Taj Mahal of government buildings. This isn't even mentioning the fact that the continued ad valorem use of taxes benefits mainly the island towns and doesn't address the needs of increased infrastructure. It seems to me that the good ol boy club spends the money excessively when it comes in like drunken sailors and then poor mouths about how much they need additional funding for all the programs the money could have been allocated to. Instead of wasting it frivolously on pet projects that only benefit a few, they could use it wisely across the board to address the many issues that are sugarcoated and ignored until it gets necessary to deal with them. With the large increase in tourism and air b n b income, you would think that the overall county would benefit from this and that the worker bees who have to pay for the privilege of parking would somehow get trickle down benefits as well.

dc

Evidence there's no need to advertise. Put that $ into sand.

Welcome to the discussion.

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