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Even with the high gas prices and slumping economy, occupancy tax revenue was up about 3 percent over last year during Brunswick County’s summer tourist season, according to officials with the Tourism Development Authority.
Mitzi York, the authority’s executive director, said Tuesday that May figures were up 15.5 percent over last year’s while June was down 7 percent.
All the July and August numbers aren’t in yet, but York said the county is expected to finish the year about 2.98 percent over last year.
“I’m more optimistic about July and August,” she said, noting although agencies reported the Fourth of July weekend as not living up to previous years, the rest of the weeks were successful.
“We always have an issue in mid-August when people start preparing for school. Business tapers off,” York added.
The main difference between this year and last year, she said, is visitors made bookings much later than before.
“We saw a lot more of that than we ever have,” she said. “People were shopping for deals and looking for specials.”
York said authority members had been noticing the booking period had gotten shorter and shorter over the past several years, and it’s now gotten to the point where visitors were making their plans days ahead of time.
“I don’t think it will stay that tight, but we had already been seeing the trend,” York said.
TDA Chairman Kemp Causey said the 3 percent increase is respectable and about standard for the industry.
“June was the biggest disappointment for us,” he said. “But overall, we fared very well.”
Causey said the cost of gas was a major concern for those in the tourism industry, and the TDA’s decision to market the Brunswick islands to people within a certain driving distance helped ensure a successful season.
“We need to continue to market to those close by. I don’t think the fuel situation will change dramatically. So we’ll stick basically with what we’re doing.”
In addition to that strategy, the TDA has also launched an updated Web site, ncbrunswickislands.com, to keep up with visitors and sending e-mails to those who express interest in particular areas or topics on the site.
The revamped site also includes pages for weddings and conferences and is easier to navigate, York said.
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.