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NJ Tourism Director Notes CMCo Comeback in ’22

Jeff Vasser
Christopher South

Jeff Vasser, executive director of the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism, addresses the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, June 15, and reports on state and county tourism numbers for 2022.

By Christopher South

NORTH CAPE MAY – The keynote address at the Cape May County Chamber Membership Lunch Meeting, June 15, was all about the numbers, such as two, six, 11, or 310,450 and 7.4 billion.
According to state Division of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Jeff Vasser, Cape May County is number two in tourism and tourism-related jobs, second only to Atlantic County.
Vasser told the crowd at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal that Cape May County is one of only six of the 21 counties in New Jersey to recover economically to 2019 levels – the last year before Covid restrictions took their toll on New Jersey businesses.
Vasser said there were 11 million visitors to Cape May County in 2022, which is significant because it shows that the area’s economy has made a faster recovery than predicted.
“Predictions were we would not come back to pre-Covid numbers until 2024 or 2025,” Vasser said.
Vasser said Cape May County’s economy grew by 7.2% in 2022, which seems small compared to Essex County, with its 25% growth. However, he said the reason is Cape May County’s economy has been seeing more, continuous growth than other places, such as Essex County.
“Cape May County started coming back earlier, so that is why the percentage is smaller,” he said.
To accomplish that, Cape May County businesses employed 30,352 people in direct tourism-related jobs, which is about 10% of the 310,450 employed in tourism jobs in the state.
Vasser cited these numbers as one of the signs of recovery, as the tourism industry lost more jobs due to Covid than any other industry in the state.
Cape May County accounted for 10% of all tourism-related jobs. Atlantic County, mainly because of Atlantic City, accounts for 17% of those jobs.
The 11 million tourists spent 12% more than the previous year, helping Cape May County get to 99% of its pre-pandemic level of tourist spending, which amounted to $7.4 billion in 2022.
According to Vasser, the area from which Cape May County draws the most visitors is the Philadelphia metropolitan area, along with New Jersey and New York.
The state is doing more promotions in the New England states, as well as internationally. He said the state is promoting tourism in Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.
Canadian visitors have always been a significant part of the tourist industry in Cape May County, but the increase in international visitors overall has made New Jersey number three in the nation for international visits.
Vasser referred to a Bruce Springsteen concert in London, England, where taxis wrapped with “Visit New Jersey” slogans were picked up on the TV cameras.
“I wish we could say that was planned,” Vasser said.
Vasser said the Division of Travel and Tourism has a fiscal year 2023 budget of $25 million. The Pennsylvania-New Jersey-New York area still accounts for about 32% of the marketing budget.
Secondary markets take about 54% of the total tourism marketing budget. Vasser said that number is growing, as the division expands its reach. He said as they talk to people outside the traditional market base, they are finding more and more people who either lived in New Jersey or who visited, and all are saying they want to come back to the Jersey Shore.
The division maintains various statistics on where people go when they visit the shore. Four of the top five accommodation destinations in 2022 in Cape May County were in the City of Cape May: Grand Hotel of Cape May, Congress Hall Resort, Marquis de Lafayette, and Montreal Beach Resort. The Bolero Resort in Wildwood was the other.
Despite county officials promoting the idea that there is more to Cape May County than the beaches, Vasser gave information saying three of the top five attractions in Cape May County in 2022 were beaches, including North Wildwood, Cape May, and Avalon. The other two biggest draws were Cape May Point State Park and Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks.
The top five retail attractions in the county were Washington Commons, Surf Mall, Boardwalk Mall, North Cape May Shopping Center, and Walmart Supercenter.
Vasser said the slogan for 2022 was “Boost Your Mood,” which will be replaced by a new campaign to be released in September. He said the new tourism push would be introduced with a huge media campaign to be announced then.
Other upcoming campaigns will be the promotion of American heritage tours, as the U.S. draws near to its 250th anniversary.
“People don’t realize it, but New Jersey has more Revolutionary War sites than Virginia,” Vasser said.
He said wineries and breweries would continue to hold a lot of interest among tourists in 2023. 
Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128. 

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