Preliminary Room-Tax Returns Nearly Even in July

Data from the Door County Tourism Zone confirm what many business owners and residents have been saying since the middle of June: The pandemic hasn’t deterred people from visiting Door County. Room-tax revenue in July appears to be on track to nearly equal or possibly surpass 2019 returns based on the Tourism Zone’s preliminary reports.

July’s room-tax revenue reached $1,119,903, which is down just $58,113 from 2019, with 128 properties yet to report. 

Kim Roberts, Tourism Zone administrator, said she has never had to send as many notices to property owners for failing to report as she has this summer, but she said it’s to be expected, given that they are still struggling to deal with the pandemic’s ramifications. Roberts said about 75 short-term rental properties that rented last year have closed this season. 

The Tourism Zone collects a 5.5 percent room tax on lodging stays in the county, including stays at hotels, resorts and vacation-home rentals. The tax generated more than $5 million in 2019, with 30 percent going back to the municipality in which it was collected, 4 percent to administrate the tax and the remaining 66 percent to Destination Door County for tourism promotion. 

For the year through July, revenue is down 20.9 percent, but if August and September perform on a similar pace, the county may be on track to finish the year about 15 percent off last year’s pace.

But a lot could happen between now and the end of October to change that. 

“I’m hearing more cancellations as the case numbers are rising here,” Roberts said. “People are getting more leery of going out or picking up food. I don’t know where we’re going to end up.”

The average daily room rate rose from $202 to $216 in July over the same month in 2019. That could be an indication of more people staying in vacation-rental homes, which have a much higher nightly rate but are still counted as a single unit. 

But Roberts said a change in tax-collection legislation also plays a role. The traveler’s service fee charged by third-party booking services such as Expedia, Airbnb and Vrbo is now taxable. The fees are charged to the host for the booking, and to the guest for the convenience.