COURT HOUSE – Reports during 2019 indicated Cape May County was having a record summer and fall, based on anecdotal reports and hard data collected through Occupancy Tax on hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns.
According to a release, on May 8, the Secretary of State unveiled the 2019 economic impact data compiled by tourism economics, hired by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism reported Cape May County experienced an increase of 4.4% in direct tourism spending and hosted 10.2 million visitors. Spending in New Jersey topped $46.4 billion with 116 million visitors.
Cape May County generated $6.905 billion in direct tourism spending, representing an increase of $290 million over 2018. Visitor spending increased in all five sectors, with Food and Beverage showing the highest increase of nearly $108 million over the prior year. A breakdown of the sector follows: Lodging – $2,680.7 billion, an increase of $48.2 million; Food and Beverage – $1.644 billion, an increase of $107.9 million; Retail – $1,361.1 billion, an increase of $81.5 million; Recreation – $742.4 million, an increase of $30.9 million; Transportation – $475.9 million, an increase of $23.2 million.
Cape May County ranks second in the state under Atlantic County. However, Cape May County tourism revenue outpaced all other counties in Food and Beverage, Retail and Recreation. Cape May County second home rentals in 2018 were $2.197 billion and topped all other counties in the state.
The 2019 rental income was not pulled out of the lodging figure in the report. An estimated 50% of all second homes in New Jersey are located in Cape May County. Atlantic County ranks first in the state in tourism spending, with $7,784.2 billion, indicating a growth of 5.3% over 2018.
Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton, liaison to the Department of Tourism, said, “The economic impact of tourism in Cape May County had continued to grow as we work to expand the traditional summer season. We had a record summer, and the fall and winter months are proving to be a factor in the growth in overall visitor spending. This keeps many businesses open and people employed longer and, in some cases, year-round.”
The increase in revenue generated through tourism is expected to dip in 2020 due to the closing of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of income from Easter, Mother’s Day, and what looks like Memorial Day Weekends is devastating to the local economy, as most tourism dependant businesses are shuttered until further notice.
“The closing of non-essential businesses since mid-March has been devastating to our local year-round and seasonal restaurants, retail, and service industry,” Thornton added. “I created the Cape May County Recovery Task Force to develop a plan to be ready when the governor opens New Jersey for business. Under the leadership of Freeholder Vice-Director Leonard Desiderio and Will Morey, the Task Force, made up of volunteers from throughout the county, represent a wide range of business sectors and their input has been invaluable as we try to reestablish new norms and protocols moving forward. Freeholders Morey and Desiderio have submitted a plan for the safe and thoughtful reopening of Cape May County. Once the governor gives us a date, we hope to hit the ground running and try to salvage the summer.”
The Cape May County Department of Tourism has been adjusting their marketing efforts to stay engaged with potential visitors and keep the Jersey Cape in the forefront of travelers who are still planning vacations when the travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders are lifted.
The campaign is called, “Brighter Days are Ahead,” and includes print, digital, billboard and broadcast ads in targeted locations within a tank of gas away. A 30-second ad, promoting the destination, is currently running with a positive message that the Jersey Cape is ready and waiting for visitors to return.
Diane Wieland, the Cape May County director of tourism, explained, “We immediately changed our marketing message once we learned of the travel ban across the country. We normally start our advertising campaign in March and moved it to launch in late May and early June. Those ads that are committed promote a message of brighter days and making new memories when the County opened.
“We added a secondary message that targeted our local audience promoting restaurants and other food and beverage establishments that offer take out and curbside options.”
The Department of Tourism starts marketing the county in early January, with a series of travel shows within the mid-Atlantic region and Canada. The shows were curtailed with four canceled due to COVID-19.
“Billboards will target the areas we missed at travel shows and an upgraded digital and social media campaign is in place to target an audience within a drive to market,” Wieland added. “With the uncertainty of when the ‘stay-at-home order’ will be lifted and the county can be fully open, we anticipate there will be increased interest in beach destinations within a two-to-three-hour drive. “Tourism surveys conducted indicate that 57% of people using social media are talking and dreaming about a vacation. We want to be in front of them while they are home and engaged on social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We want to be the place they are dreaming about for their summer vacation.”
West Wildwood – Restaurants have come up with a fancy name for increasing prices. It’s called “Dynamic Pricing.” They plan is to raise prices during peak hours such as lunch time. 12-1 pm and dinner time, 5-7 pm…