‘The numbers are cooling off’  

By on March 27, 2024

previous arrow
next arrow
previous arrow
next arrow

Substantial drops in January 2024 tourism revenues in Dare County

While it’s only the first month of the year, the just-released Dare County January 2024 occupancy and meals collections numbers show a significant decrease from the same month in the previous year.

As Lee Nettles, Executive Director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau noted in a video presentation, the tourism-related numbers in January are traditionally small, but this January’s pattern is inescapable.

January 2024 occupancy collections amounted to $15.6 million dollars, down by half (52%) from the $32.3 million in 2023, and they represent the smallest occupancy numbers since 2020.

On the meals side, the drop-off was not as dramatic, but still the January 2024 total of $11.2 million was about a 26% decrease from the January 2023 total of about $15 million. (The $11.2 in collections was higher than the number for the years preceding 2023 however.)

Nettles said that interpreting the 2024 decreases was something of a matter of perspective, but he was clear about the signals sent in the first month of this year.

Speaking of the occupancy numbers, he stated that “Obviously, when you have a 52% drop, it raises an eyebrow or two.” The meals drop of 26%, he also characterized as “obviously a big number.”

Summing up, he acknowledged the clear trend and its implications. “The numbers are a bit all over the place [but] one thing we are seeing and are foreseeing is spring is going to be soft,” Nettles said. “The numbers are cooling off.”

SEE ALSO: Dare County Tourism Board March Recap


  • jackie harris

    Now a list of what each Town received in sales taxes would be enlightening!

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 9:14 am
  • Greg

    The weather plays a part. Weather forecasts are now available easily on phones and computers. The weather last January was mild and calm. This year the weather since the 1st of January has been much more like winter. That is why people are not visiting.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 9:21 am
  • Dianne

    Rents have skyrocketed. I realize insurances and costs have gone up, but I can go to an island and stay cheaper.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 9:59 am
  • Martha

    This was going to happen eventually. The COVID crisis brought a lot of visitors trying to escape heavier affected areas. The ability of people to tele-work made coming here at any time, much much easier. Now that many are going back to in person or hybrid telework/in person. It means people won’t be so free to travel any time of the year. This chart only gives data from 2020. How do these numbers compare to pre-2020 years?

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 10:35 am
  • Curious

    So how does Jan 2024 compare to Jan 2019 (when things were somewhat normal)?

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 12:41 pm
  • Nj George

    Speaking purely for my wife and myself we feel the ambiance has been commercialized ouf OBX. All the big box stores, chain restaurants etc. We have all of that in NJ as well as traffic jams.
    No need to drive 800 miles for it to pay exorbitant rental fees.
    We can go to the shore here and enjoy that.😝

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 1:54 pm
  • Nj George

    The tee shirt ad on this site says it all.
    “I may be old but I got to see the world before it turned into shit”
    Same hold true for OBX in afraid. I know we are done.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 2:00 pm
  • Glenn Schneider

    Money is tight, and renters see the sky high rental rates, expensive restaurants which force money conscious tourist (families) to limit visits and cook more themselves.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 5:40 pm
  • Surf123

    This is great news. The decrease means fewer visitors. A win for those of us who live here. I’m sure Nettles will use the return to normal as reason to open the purse and blow incredible sums of money to trick people to come here.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 6:34 pm
  • Jay

    I have been one person who has worried about all the Dare County spending on new projects. Asking what happens when the increases in revenue decline while the need for cash does not decline. What happens is the county will turn on the property owners and raise their real estate taxes to balance county budgets.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 8:02 pm
  • Fred McPeters

    Nj George, if you’re done with the obx as you say you are, why keep reading the local news and comment on it too? Not attacking just curious.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 8:03 pm
  • Travis

    @Dianna has the right of it. If the axe has not fallen on the neck of the golden goose, then the blade is poised to strike. This area was historically a middle class retreat geared toward families (with a bit of a reputation as a Spring Break destination). Now, it is like going to an NFL game. The average person would need to save for years to afford a vacation or take out a loan.

    But the well-to-do who to can afford a regular OBX vacation don’t want to spend their summers assesandelbows with their fellow tourists. So they’ll keep moving north into Corolla/Corova, as many have done, or just go somewhere else entirely.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 12:07 am
  • Sean Mulligan

    When I moved here in 1986 it was still a quiet little beach community.I grew up in Virginia Beach and saw all the development over the years and wanted something different.It was a really nice area to raise my family but if I were making that decision today I would probably not move to the Outer Banks.It has over time evolved into just another overdeveloped beach town and it is only going to get worse.From the air it looks like the Jersey shore other than the Hatteras Seashore. I live in Southern Shores which is probably one of the better towns especially when compared to KDH but the recent beach nourishment ruined our fishing and surfing for at least a year. We lost more sand in 18 months than we lost since 1994 when I moved to the town. What made us unique is quickly vanishing. As far as January numbers I wonder why anyone would come to the OBX from December through March because the weather is miserable.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 7:41 am
  • Ed

    Can we be done chasing MORE MORE MORE? How about we find a nice middle number that doesn’t turn our home s***.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 8:16 am
  • Mark

    I’m not surprised. Everything cost more and there is no long term housing for full time locals so turn around times in restaurants is a lot slower than it could be. Get rid of the bajillion airbnbs and go back to the way tourism used to carry us

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 9:44 am
  • james

    Recently the County completed the new EMS station in Southern Shores. It is a wonderful facility and is a textbook example of how to wisely spend our tax dollars. I felt it was ashamed when the County outsourced hospice care to a wall street firm based in Kentucky. I wish all tax dollars could be used as prudent as the upgrade of the EMS stations or even funding County hospice care. The new station in Southern Shores is such a great use of our tax dollars as opposed to pumping sand on the beach which destroys the breakwater and simply washes away in a few months or financing something as ridicules as a Tourism bureau or work force housing that in the end is not guaranteed at all will be given to a school teacher or health care worker instead may very well end up with a retiree from another part of the country.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 10:53 am
  • Real Deal McSqueal

    We’re skipping out on coming down for the first time in a decade. Too expensive and too commercialized… Enjoy all the new Sugar Whatever stores though.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 11:20 am
  • Sally Price

    For more than 50 years Buxton has been our preferred destination, as recently as last September. The uncovering of polluting infrastructure at the former Navy/Coast Guard station and the resulting closing of and disappearing of beaches along that stretch is heartbreaking and causing us to re-think where we want to vacation.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 1:37 pm
  • surf123

    @Nj George…you are correct that the ambience is but gone. This happens when “normal” move to a place and “fixing” things. The abnormal, odd and strange that create ambience slowly disappear as transplants morph their new home into what they left by thinking “this place is great, but if it had this or that it would better.” The most recent influx of chain stores will mean more cool and quirky businesses going under. Always remember the chains are not here for us, as they would never bother if the tourists did not exist because there is not enough money to support them.

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 2:19 pm
  • M

    We always get articles like this and by the end of 2024, it will (again) be a record year for visitors and money. The obsession is real for this place. This is one thing I don’t worry about at all in life. Visitors coming here in record fashion year after year. Watch what happens from mid May till December. “People will come ray people will most definitely come “

    Thursday, Mar 28 @ 4:33 pm