Although December 2022 saw a drop in occupancy and meals collections when compared to the record set in 2021, the two key indicators of Dare County’s visitor economy again established new records and rose by nearly six percent over the entire year.
In a report to the Dare County Tourism Board at their Feb. 16 meeting, data also showed gross retail sales continued to hold at around 5.6 percent above the previous year through November.
Despite the growth compared to the previous two record-setting years on the Outer Banks, visitor economy officials continue to caution that revenue levels reported in 2022 can be attributed in some ways to inflation-driven price increases and other factors.
Gross occupancy in December was at $10,195,045, down 43.6 percent from $18,096,294 in December 2021. That’s after November 2022 saw an increase of 63 percent when compared to 2021.
While some lodging was unavailable in late fall and over the holidays, whether being closed for renovations or because its the offseason, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles said the variations from month-to-month can’t be attributed to one specific factor.
“Fluctuations in collections can happen from several other causes, or a combination of causes: weather, prices/economic concerns, or simply when the lodging property remitted the tax to the collections office,” Nettles said.
“The places that were open weren’t maxed out, so they could have easily absorbed business displaced from a closed property,” Nettles said.
Hotel/motel/vacation rentals for 2022 brought in a total of $814,248,027, an increase of 5.6 percent ahead of 2021 when 771,066,418 was brought in.
Dare County has seen 13 straight years of gross occupancy growth dating back to 2009.
“Although 2022 has been unpredictable with big swings up and down, the averages are starting to look more familiar… the calendar year finished up 5.6% which is much closer to the normal yearly changes we typically see,” Nettles said.
On the gross meals side in December, receipts were down 5.81 percent to $14,853,412 in 2022, compared to $15,637,654 in 2021. For the year, meals were up to $372,305,735, a 5.81 percent increase compared to 2021’s $351,849,101.
Gross retail sales in November 2022 were up 1.64 percent to $7,843,407, compared to $7,717,041 the previous November. Gross sales totaled $107,432,367 through the first 11 months of 2022, an increase of 5.59 percent over 2021’s year-to-date total of $101,740,660.