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Sunday, July 21, 2024


Tourism Survey: Visitors Will Return This Summer


By Jack Fichter

CREST HAVEN – The Cape May County Department of Tourism has released its first tourism survey of the year and it shows promise for the 2009 summer season.
A brief email survey sent to 2,000 visitors to the tourism website who requested vacation information in 2008 indicated that 77 percent of the respondents are planning to vacation in Cape May County in 2009. The survey was conducted to help the business community as well as aide the department in determining a more concise marketing plan and to better target key audiences.
When asked if their 2009 vacation plans have changed, a resounding 80 percent said no, with 18 percent saying yes, and 2 percent not sure.
The next question asked if gas prices or other economic factors would impact their vacation plans. Of those respondents, 56 percent said they would not impact their vacation plans, while 35 percent said they would.
The survey asked the 35 percent who said gas prices and other economic factors would impact their plans how they would be affected. The survey allowed more than one answer and found that the following factors would be considered when making vacation plans to Cape May County in 2009; 22 percent will vacation closer to home; 12 percent will take drive vacations; 26 percent will take fewer vacations; 22 percent will take shorter vacations; and 18 percent will take more day trips.
Packages, coupons and other discounts will help in determining vacation destinations and options for 54 percent of the respondents; with 33 percent indicating that they could possibly sway their decision; and 7 percent saying they would not impact their decisions at all.
Other surveys conducted on the national level have shown that many travelers are looking more for value out of their vacation dollars and not necessarily deep discounts. Today’s travelers are expecting to get the best deal and are shopping around to find it.
The makeup of the jersey cape vacationer for 2009 is about the same number of couples as families with children. Couples will represent 31 percent of county visitors and families that include children will be 32 percent.
Those traveling with friends are 13 percent and those traveling with parents/grandparents or extended families is 18 percent. Baby Boomers control 80% of the wealth and most are of the age to be grandparents.
How visitors to Cape May County are getting their vacation information are was another question asked in the survey. Interestingly, 42 percent are getting it from the Internet; 11 percent newspaper travel sections; 22 percent television; 22 percent visitor centers; 19 percent friends and family. Respondents could select more than one answer.
Accommodation options included; 33 percent hotel/motel; 12 percent Bed & Breakfast Inn; 9 percent condominium; 21 percent house or apartment rental; 9 percent campground; 6 percent visit friend or family; second/vacation home 3 percent and 7 percent undecided.
Diane F. Wieland, director of the county Department of Tourism, told the Herald high gasoline prices helped tourism in this county last summer because many visitors lived one tank of gas away from this area.
“The lower gas price is going to help put their budget back in order,” she said.
Wieland noted 30 million persons live within a 300-mile radius of this county.
She predicts a tourist season similar to 2008.
Based on state hotel/motel room tax, occupancy numbers for Cape May County from 2007-2008, there were more overnights stays in 2008 than 2007, said Wieland.
“While the domestic market may have shrunk, the Canadian market grew so that may have masked that we had a lower number of domestic visitors,” she said.
Weiland said Canadian visitors are expected to return to the county this summer even though the currency exchange rate is not as favorable as it was in 2008.
One of area concern for Wieland, 18 percent of respondents to the survey said they would take more day trips.
“While that hurts our accommodation business, which is like a $2.4 billion dollar industry in Cape May County, it’s still not a bad thing because then it helps the retail side,” she said.
Vacation budgets have fixed costs such as gas, food and accommodations, which affects retail and amusements spending. For day-trippers, their budget is geared towards retail and amusements, said Wieland.
She said 50 percent of all second homes in the state are located in this county and 47 percent of the county’s dwellings are considered vacation homes of which 56 percent of homeowners use their second home for their families rather than rent out the property.
“With 47 percent of our dwellings as second homes, they’re kind of committed to a vacation here,” said Wieland. “Our survey found they on average spend $200 more per visit than the vacationer.”
She said that extra $200 was spent on entertainment and food.
“Second home owners are going to save the day again for the fact they are committed,” said Wieland. “They may not be able to take that cruise or go somewhere else on vacation but they’ve got a vacation home in Cape May County and they are going to come.”
When the state projected economic income figures, they never took into consideration rentals, she said.
“Cape May County generated $1.5 billion in rental income which is the highest in the state,” said Wieland. “You can’t leave that out, that’s a huge factor in the whole spending pattern of the visitor.”
The tourism season runs an extra week this year with Memorial Day early and Labor Day “as late as it can be,” said Weiland.
“We’re hoping everybody comes up with some kind of fun thing to do in that extra week,” she said.

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