Economic recovery in Aransas County in the 28 months since Hurricane Harvey is an inexact science. It can be measured in many ways. Some businesses are doing as well, or even better than they were prior to the storm, but many others are barely hanging on, and some have shut their doors.
One bright spot in the recovery is the amount of venue tax, which is now being collected.
The venue tax, which is used to fund Aransas Pathways, is a two percent tax charged on all overnight stays. It is charged to everyone who is staying in a hotel, condo, bed and breakfast, or other rental for less than 30 days.
No matter where one stays overnight, he or she is charged 15 percent in “occupancy-type” taxes.
The state receives a six percent hotel occupancy tax (HOT).
The City of Rockport and Town of Fulton receive a seven percent HOT if located within one of its city limits.
Aransas County receives a seven percent HOT if the overnight stay is not located inside Rockport or Fulton.
Everyone pays the two percent venue tax to Aransas County.
(Note: Aransas County voters approved the venue tax in 2010. At that time, the revenue was used for the Aquarium at Rockport Harbor Education Center.)
Total venue tax collections, since 2015, are:
• 2015 - $486,407.91
• 2016 - $460,140.65
• 2017 - $402,741.99
• 2018 - $272,335.14
• 2019 - $389,748.86
The year just completed (2019) was down 15.29 percent, compared to 2016, the last full year prior to Hurricane Harvey. It is also down 3.22 percent from 2017, the year Harvey hit Aransas County. However, it is up 43.12 percent, compared to 2018, the first full year after the storm.
“I’m sort of impressed we’re up to almost $390,000, but we’re not back to 2016 levels,” said Aransas County Treasurer Alma Cartwright.
She noted the market is in a flux right now because Harvey damaged or destroyed many rental units, and there are many new units online since the storm.
Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Diane Probst said, “We have been watching our venue tax numbers very closely. It gives us a good reading regarding the rebound in tourism after the storm.
“However, with that being said, everything is recorded on a cash basis, not accrual. Late payments skew our numbers.
“Overall, we are pleased to see the total dollars generated from the venue tax is down only $70,000, compared to 2016 (pre-Harvey).
“With our advertising campaign, which includes digital ads, social marketing, television, billboards, magazines, etc. we are looking forward to 2020.
“Our hotels have been beautifully remodeled, and our venues have been rebuilt or remodeled. The staffs of our local attractions are working hard to provide excellent programming and activities.
“This year is going to be a good one. It will feel closer to what we consider normal.”