The beach was packed in June near Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier in Emerald Isle after statewide novel coronavirus travel restrictions eased. Brad Rich / CarolinaCoastOnline

NC - Carteret County Beach Visitation Up in June Despite Pandemic

EMERALD ISLE — Although it might seem counterintuitive, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have increased beach visitation to Carteret County this summer, at least in June, the latest month for which 2020 figures are available.

That was the word Monday afternoon from Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph, who presented the figures during a meeting of the Carteret County Beach Commission in the town board meeting room in Emerald Isle.

“The June 2020 occupancy tax collection was up by 16.9 percent compared to the June 2019 collection, representing a $228,651 total increase for the month,” Mr. Rudolph said. That means the county’s beach nourishment fund, which gets half the proceeds from the occupancy tax, got $114,326 more than it did last June.

“In fact,” Mr. Rudolph added, “the June 2020 (occupancy tax collection) was the highest ever for this particular month, albeit just barely.”

“Although on the surface one would think the impacts from COVID-19 would be a detriment to visitation, the opposite has likely proved to be the case,” Mr. Rudolph added in his monthly presentation to the commission, which advises his office. “Anecdotally we’re experiencing visitation from families who usually travel to other states, or other countries for that matter, for vacation, but because of travel restrictions, are now ‘discovering’ Bogue Banks.”

In addition, Mr. Rudolph said, it appears that with more of the public working remotely, more people had the freedom to spend time at destination locations, like the beaches of Carteret County.

“Couple these demographical trends with the fact that we can accommodate more visitors this year than last because the condos and hotels that were damaged during (Hurricane) Florence are repaired and are back online this year,” he added.

Still, Mr. Rudolph said, ending the fiscal year with a record-setting June “was not enough to overcome the negative financial impacts of COVID-19 restrictions that caused dramatic drops in March and April,”which featured the closure of many beach accesses and a temporary prohibition on short-term rentals.

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