Around this time of year, residents and business owners begin asking around to get a pulse on how the season is going for the tourism industry. While crowded streets and sold-out shows may be an anecdotal indication for a successful year, there is some data that provides a more direct explanation of how the year is going so far.
By looking at both county sales tax figures and room occupancy rates, we can get an idea of any gains over past years. Through July of this year, all signs point to growth.
First, it’s important to understand how sales tax is reported. The state has a five percent sales tax and Door County tacks on another half percent, along with 62 other counties in Wisconsin. Business owners have different filing dates for sales tax and the numbers listed in the monthly disbursement indicate when the money was given back to the county, not when the product was sold. Since most businesses report their sales tax months after selling a product or service, looking at sales tax over the year serves a better picture than month-by-month comparison. As an example, reported sales tax in November and December of 2015 are nearly as high as sales tax reported in June and July.
Looking at sales tax through July compared to this time last year, the county has seen a 10 percent increase in reported sales tax. That amounts to $165,675.40 in additional sales tax dispersed back to the county compared to last year.
Looking at individual months, which, as stated above, are not a perfect representation of economic growth compared to the big picture, May is the only month that saw a significant decrease in sales tax disbursement, down 14 percent from last year. July had a relatively insignificant decrease of just three percent while April and June saw increases of nearly 30 percent.
Room occupancy rates and room tax, reported by the Door County Tourism Zone Commission, offers a more direct relationship between the data and a successful tourism season. The commission reports occupancy rates and room tax collections for the month that the room was booked, representing actual occupancy in a given month.
The Door County Visitor Bureau (DCVB) reports on a two-month delay, so data is only available through May of this year, but the results through the first five months of 2016 are promising.
There has been a six percent increase in room tax collection for all of the municipalities in the county, equaling $515,263. Every month of this year has seen a greater occupancy rate and the average cost of a room has increased as well.
Pulse columnist Steve Grutzmacher has a habit of checking sales tax and reporting his findings in his column, An Outlook. His last analysis in September 2015 came to the following conclusion – it’s still fitting for this year: “It is obvious that, thus far,  has been a very good year for business in Door County. Now, we need to begin looking at augmenting our workforce to manage all this increased business.”