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Monday, June 17, 2024


County Tourism Director Optimistic on Outlook for 2024

County Tourism Director Optimistic on Outlook for 2024

By Christopher South

Diane Wieland is shown at one of her many tourism updates given to the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce. Wieland said the county has recovered from Covid setbacks, but the county doesn’t know what normal looks like.
Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland speaks to the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce about trends in tourism and marketing the entire county – not just the beaches.
Christopher South/File Photo
Diane Wieland is shown at one of her many tourism updates given to the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce. Wieland said the county has recovered from Covid setbacks, but the county doesn’t know what normal looks like.

CAPE MAY – The county’s tourism director says Cape May is looking forward to a new normal for tourism this year, one that might see more short trips to visit the attractions the county has to offer, including midweek vacations.

Tourism Director Diane Wieland addressed the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce in Cape May on Thursday, May 16, providing a lot of facts and figures broken down into a simple message: “We’re doing very well.”

Wieland said that among New Jersey’s 21 counties, Cape May comes in second only to Atlantic County in direct tourism spending. Direct tourism expenditures in Cape May in 2023 amounted to $7.7 billion, she said.

Cape May County outpaced every other county in terms of sales of food and beverages, general retail, recreation transportation and lodging, with three of those five categories recording sales in the billions.

“All sectors measured experienced growth in 2023 over 2022,” Wieland said.

The increase was understandable, as Cape May had more visitors in 2023 than New Jersey’s population, 9.2 million. Cape May saw nearly 11.6 million visitors last year, up from 11.4 million in 2022. Part of the reason could be visitors returning throughout the year, she said.

Wieland addressed the popularity of shorter, more frequent trips, including midweek trips, saying there are 300 million people living within 300 miles of the county, which means they have the potential of getting to Cape May on a tank of gas.

“The great American road trip is back,” she said.

Wieland said remote work opportunities and summer school breaks make midweek vacations an easier sell.

For all the visitors, and all the revenue, including $637.5 million in state and local taxes – roughly $1.75 million per day – the county continues to get very little back from Trenton. Wieland said Cape May last year received $4.3 million in grants from the state. She said the county sent nearly $22 million in occupancy tax dollars to the state, but Essex County, for example, received more tourism money than Cape May.

However, she said, as long as tourism continues to attract a growing number of visitors to Cape May, business owners have reason to be optimistic.

She said businesses should consider that more and more visitors want to travel with their dogs. Nearly half of American homes have dogs, and 78% of those travel with their dogs. According to Wieland’s statistics, 54% of travelers would rather travel with their pet than family or friends. Catering to pet owners is one way to ensure a certain amount of business, she said.

Providing travelers with experiences they will remember is another way, she said.

“The beach may be the reason for the vacation, but planners are expecting experiences that are memorable and add to the adventure they are seeking,” she said.

The county’s Tourism Department and the Southern Shore Regional Destination Marketing Organization have developed a marketing campaign, Wieland said, with a message that attempts to sell “souvenirs of the soul.” She said the vacation experience produces memories of the interaction with local craftsmen, a meal, or sunsets, which visitors will take home with them and hang onto long after they leave.

“Is it a childhood memory they want to relive and share with others?” she asked.

Wieland said 90% of Americans plan to travel at some point during 2024, and half of them will travel more than in 2023. Of that number, 85% plan to travel out of state. But according to an IPX 1031 survey, she said, more than half the respondents said the economy impacted their travel plans. Some 15% said they would postpone or cancel a trip due to the expense.

“Vacation affordability is a determining factor when budgeting and making financial decisions,” she said.

Wieland’s presentation was preceded by comments from Cape May County Board of County Commissioners Director Leonard Desiderio, who cited various negative factors of the national economy, including increased inflation and the consumer price index, that influence tourism. With factors such as these in mind, normal is still a nebulous concept in Cape May County.

“What is normal? We don’t know what normal is. We’re still trying to reach it,” Wieland said.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.


Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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