Tourism income looking decent, even on Hatteras

By on May 21, 2013

moneyFueled in part by an early Easter this year, a financial recap for the first quarter provided by Dare County’s Tourism Board was mostly positive.

Tax collections on retail sales were up 2.39 percent for the first two months of 2013, with a total of almost $4.4 million.

Gross meal sales were up slightly in the first quarter, posting a 2.5 percent increase over 2012 with $21.7 million in revenues.

Through March, gross occupancy realized significant gains in the bed and breakfast category (60.2 percent) and campgounds (17.3 percent).

Gross rental home occupancy through March checked in at $9.5 million, a 22.5 percent increase over 2012, while timeshare units saw occupancy revenues increase 132 percent.

The only areas experiencing declines were traditional cottage courts (-6 percent) and motel/hotels (-6.15 percent), but it should be noted The Sanderling in Duck was closed for all of the first quarter.

Total gross occupancy revenues through March in all categories totaled $14.3 million, a 10.7 percent increase over 2012’s $12.9 million revenue figure.

One of the more pleasant surprises centered on Hatteras Island.

The southern end of Dare County has been plagued by access issues stemming from Hurricane Sandy and a series of powerful nor’easters that washed out N.C. 12 several times in late 2012.

However, Hatteras posted a 25 percent increase in gross occupancy, with $4.7 million in gross revenues for 2013 versus $3.78 million in 2012.

The northern beaches were up $9.2 million (5.88 percent) while Roanoke Island saw a 13 percent decrease.

The Visitors Bureau’s 2013-14 proposed budget presented last week reflected no significant changes and even included decreases in group health insurance, workers comp, property/liability and retirement.

The Grants Committee approved $7,300 in TAG grants to the N.C. Aquarium Society for a pro-am Beach Volleyball tournament to be held in late August at the Jennette’s Pier location.

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May 23, 2013 7:44 pm

We all want everyone on the OBX to have a chance at success, but perhaps Hatteras Island should take a fresh approach to their offerings – like marketing. It seems everything centers around beach driving and how gas guzzling tourists are victims of conservation policies. What about marketing to a different audience and taking advantage of the situation ? Things like eco tourism, nature education programs, school groups, partnerships with the Coastal Studies Center, the RI aquarium, etc. Keep the fishing thing going if you want, but things change for everyone. Maybe its time here too.


May 23, 2013 10:13 am

^ Good call on the Easter Adjustment.

I’ve also noticed a June trend this year that will be showing a dip in occupancy for non-oceanfront homes. It seems to be affecting most of the rental companies too, any thoughts?

Salvo Jimmy

May 23, 2013 6:19 am

All y’all just further make the point that water consumption would be a better indicator of the actual number of folks in a given area.

Heck on Hatteras Is it can even be broken down to villages, just like the taxes.

Lee Nettles

May 22, 2013 5:43 pm

For the reasons others have mentioned, occupancy collection figures are directional, but not an absolute gauge of what’s going on. As Russ pointed out, Easter was in March this year, but April in 2012. That inflates March. Also, when you’re comparing to a weak number the year before, a modest increase can look much bigger than it really is. For instance, Hatteras Isl. occupancy, Mar ’13 vs Mar ’12 = +25%, but Hatteras Mar ’12 vs Mar ’11 = -10%. So the weak Mar ’12 makes Mar ’13 look great by comparison. Once you back out Easter, March for Hatteras starts looking much flatter. The last thing to remember is these are aggregated numbers. What one business is feeling can be very different from the next.

Pat Avon

May 22, 2013 9:10 am

I would like to say also their has been a increase in rental prices, so fewer house rentals mean the same or more taxes.
so is there really a increase in business? I live on 12 and I see less traffic going by my house this spring, and not as many FISHING RODS..they are not coming with most beaches closed as of this week..even for walking..


May 22, 2013 9:08 am

Salvo Jimmy: I’m with you that there’s probably some skewing of the 2013 v. 2012 numbers, but an increase of $900k+ tells me that it’s more than just a numbers skew…Irene destroyed maybe what, 100 rental homes in total? I do believe that Hatteras occupancy is truly growing. Hatteras rental homes historically have had a longer rental season than the middle & northern beaches.

bbc: With respect, I have not visited all the tackle shops in Hatteras. I have visited enough of them (and other small businesses) to know that there is a measurable, perceptible difference in the way a visitor is treated on Hatteras versus Roanoke or the middle & northern beaches in terms of hospitality. By and large the atmosphere is only a few steps removed from open hostility, as though I should be privileged to hand over my money while I’m there. Now I’m sure your business is different, as each business will claim, however the only place where I have felt warm and welcomed each time I walk in the door is Lisa’s Pizza in Rodanthe.

You’d also be well advised to verse yourself in those occupancy numbers, as knowing their mechanics indirectly affects your business. Typical shoulder & off season tourists are more price conscious, so generally they’re not going to spend $2k on a house that is more than they need when the $800 house will suit their needs & budget better. Occupancy numbers do have margins of error but are generally quite accurate. The facts have established that the tourists are there, but don’t appear to be spending money in your shop, so it bears asking the question of why?

As a visitor, former employee of a business down there, property owner, and fellow Outer Banks resident, I’m politely telling you that you might want to get your collective act together and decide which you want more: less tourists invading your island or more tourism dollars. Toot toot my friend.

Salvo Jimmy

May 22, 2013 7:33 am

I have said before occupancy tax and sales tax, while indicators, are too subject to things like price increase, eating out more / less etc.

I fully believe water consumption comparisons would be far more accurate in determining actual “occupancy” in terms of number of people.

But no one seems to be interested in that even though the figures must be available from the county. My guess is that comparison would not be as “rosy” as the tax comparisons.


May 21, 2013 9:25 pm

It’s hard to get excited about first quarter figures one way or the other because the amount is so small compared with the summertime–June-Aug is 20x Jan-Mar. Let’s wait and see.


May 21, 2013 8:21 pm

this was the worst spring ever for us in our 35+ years of retail here on hatteras island. our march was off 60% from last march which itself was off from the previous year. the big question this spring among business owners was ‘where is everybody?’

do they take into consideration how many people occupy each rental house? do they know how many people are in each house? a house that rents for $2000 could have two people or ten people in it, so the occupancy numbers could be a bit misleading.

millenial, have you been down to hatteras island and interviewed all the tackle shop owners who are directly affected by the closures? until you do, don’t toot that horn of yours too loudly.

Salvo Jimmy

May 21, 2013 4:39 pm

Hurricane Irene wiped out a lot of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo rental capacity and it was not ready for occupancy until well into 2012, so not too surprising on the 2013 increase. And Sandy in 2012 only affected access during the latter part of 2012 and not 2013.

So the early 2012 to 2013 comparison is a bit of apple vs orange.


May 21, 2013 3:42 pm

What??? In spite of closures of beaches for bird nesting???

Do believe I called that.

OBVoice Article from April 9 on Cape Point closure

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