Here come the school kids, there go the tourists. Well, sort of. What we think of as the ‘tourist season’ is flattening out. The two busiest quarters, April through September, now provide only 55 percent of sales tax revenue. That is to say, 45 percent of it comes from October through March. That’s a sign that retail sales across the year are flattening out – a lot of it comes from big events like Biker Rally and Mardi Gras, and Christmas is a growing source of sales – but it’s a good sign that our traditionally robust summer season is carrying less of the load and other parts of the year are picking up their share.
Collection of hotel occupancy tax – what you’ll often hear referred to as HOT tax – is showing a similar trend, though it lags sales tax in its effect on the year. April through September now accounts for 65 percent of HOT tax revenue, with the remaining third coming from the other half the year.
Together, they make another point. If off-season retail is growing faster than off-season hotel revenue, that means that more of it is coming from one-day visitors, people who, during those months, are not usually headed for the beach and not usually staying overnight.
Retailers love it, of course. No more banking on a busy summer to keep the lights on through the fall and winter.
The biggest fall/winter event has for years been Dickens on the Strand. But soon, even that may not be the biggest draw. The City, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mitchell Historic Properties, and the Historic Downtown Partnership are making plans to light up downtown for Christmas. There will displays in Sangerfest Park, plus Christmas lights on most of the buildings and along 25th street. We’re working to have at least one of the refurbished trolleys on the street at least to walk through and get your picture taken with it. The trolleys should all be back by Christmas, but there’s testing yet to be done so they won’t be in regular operation until spring. Galveston could soon become a must-visit Christmas shopping destination for our friends in Houston.
Each new promotion or event just broadens our appeal to visitors and encourages them to come back and stay longer. When people day trip to shop, as opposed to just hitting the beach, they tend to engage with more businesses and spend more. One month at a time. Bottom line, we aren’t far away from a time when there won’t be a tourist season anymore.
As a side note, the average hotel room cost for July was over $170. That’s average. Now if we can just keep turning the water blue.
–DAVID COLLINS | T: 409.443.7134 | E: DavidCollins@GalvestonTX.Gov