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Outer Banks show gain in occupancy in í08

MANTEO, N.C. (AP) ó More people visited the Outer Banks in June than a year ago despite soaring gasoline prices and other impediments to tourism, a newspaper reported Monday.
The Outer Banks this year also have suffered from drifting smoke from two wildfires, closed beaches and the troubled economy.
Statistics compiled by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau show a 7 percent rise in occupancy in June over the same period last year, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported.
The figures show that the gains were in rentals of houses. Occupancy at campgrounds, hotels and motels was down in June.
Visitors bureau director Carolyn McCormick says the overall gain shows the viability of the Outer Banks.
The numbers showed, however, that restaurants experienced a slight decline in business, indicating that visitors spent less money once they arrived at their rental house.
Receipts in the first six months of the years were up more than 4 percent, to about $107 million, McCormick said.
Rental homes were the leader, up 10 percent in June and bringing in more than $56 million. Occupancy rises included time shares and bed-and-breakfast inns.
Occupancy also increased on Hatteras Island, where miles of federal beaches are closed to protect the nests of endangered birds and sea turtles, according to the visitors bureau.
County officials have said the beach closures hurt the islandís economy.
But Allen Burrus, whose family owns a grocery store in Hatteras Village, said his business was good. Burrus also is vice chairman of the county Board of Commissioners and had been concerned about the beach closures.
ěI own a small mom-and-pop grocery store, but Iím doing well,î Burrus said. ěBusiness is up.î
Customers at his store havenít bought expensive items, such as steak, he said.
Gross receipts dropped more than 1 percent for restaurants in June, according to the visitors bureau. For the first six months of the year, restaurant sales were flat at $75.8 million.
ěItís not terrible, but itís also not one of our banner years,î said Nags Head restaurant owner Dan Bibey.

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