Off-Season Hotel Tax Revenue Roars in Port Aransas - Report

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Port Aransas has seen off-season tourism rise by at least 12 percent over last year and more than 40 percent over 2011, the city’s occupancy tax records show.

Port Aransas has seen off-season tourism rise this fiscal year by at least 12 percent over last year and more than 40 percent over 2011, the city’s occupancy tax records show.

Port Aransas, on the northern tip of Mustang Island, saw double-digit increases in off-season occupancy tax revenue in every month since October 2012 – except in January 2013, when city officials said an increase in long-term “Winter Texan” visitors depressed revenue. Visitors who stay longer than 30 days are not subject to the state’s 6 percent occupancy tax.

Ann Vaughn, president and chief executive of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce, attributed the strong off-season business to a combination of factors, including an expansion of the city’s advertising, a population explosion in Texas and national economic conditions.

“There are a lot of new people in Texas that we have targeted,” Vaughn said. “The population of Texas is increasing substantially so we are able to tell a lot of those new people about Port Aransas and the Texas Coast … and people are now willing to get out and spend a little more money. We are seeing a lot less seasonal activity and I anticipate that that will continue.”

The greatest year-over-year occupancy tax collection increases thus far in the city’s 2013 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, came in November, December and February when the city collected 26 percent, 22 percent and 26 percent more in taxes than in 2012, respectively.

The City of Port Aransas collected $2.75 million in 2011 and nearly $3.2 million in occupancy taxes in 2012.

Between Oct. 1 and Feb. 28, Port Aransas hotels and rental businesses have paid $683,613.76 in occupancy taxes, or 12 percent more than the same period last year. Occupancy tax collection for off-season months has increased 40.3 percent between 2011 and 2013 so far, the report showed.

Jeff Lamkin, developer of Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas, said the luxury beachfront resort sold out during last year’s peak periods – spring break and summer vacation – and has turned toward strengthening its “pre-peak” business with special offers.

Drawing vacationers from drive-in markets -- the San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas areas -- allows newcomers to the Coastal Bend to experience balmy water and beach temperatures, clean beaches and quiet restaurants and entertainment venues.

“As more and more Texans discover the pristine beaches and the abundance of activities the Coastal Bend offers, occupancy rates continue to strengthen through the off-season, as evidenced by these numbers,” said Lamkin. “And Winter Texans are not necessarily Texans but families from the Midwest.”

Cinnamon Shore is offering several packages with special rates and amenities to off-season travelers, including a two-night YaYa package to capture upscale women’s groups, a golf package for men, women and couples, and a Texas Heritage Weekend package designed to lure Texas Independence Trail followers a little farther south for a stop at the beach. The packages expire on May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day.

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Gina Romero
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