NJ tourism outlook down the shore – unsettled but hopeful
As temperatures start to warm up in the next few weeks, a lot of New Jersey residents and others from out of state will be making plans to spend time down the Jersey Shore. But projections for a strong tourism season remain a bit uncertain.
Near-record gas prices, spiking inflation due to the ongoing supply chain disruption crisis, the war in Ukraine and slowly increasing COVID cases in the Garden State are clouding the tourism outlook.
Jane Bokunewicz, a professor of hospitality at the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said with all of these issues on people’s minds Atlantic City and surrounding tourist locations may actually benefit.
A silver lining?
“Because of the high gas prices people may want to travel to destinations closer to home, so that could help visitation,” she said.
With inflation continuing to rise rapidly, “people will have less discretionary income to spend gambling and food and beverage and hotels, things like that, once they get here," she said.
Lori Pepenella, the CEO of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, said “even though gas prices are high we are still within a huge population of people that love to be here.”
She pointed out people have already made plans for weddings and other special events, they want to spend time with loved ones and friends and once they arrive “there really isn’t much to drive to, there’s a lot of walkable downtowns, the beach and the bay are a very short distance from each other.”
Bokunewicz noted even if COVID cases continue to drift higher, many Jersey shore locations present an attractive option for people who want to take a break from normal life and chill out a bit.
People want R&R
“People want to come to the beach, it’s an open area and people don’t have to spend a lot of money to spend some time on the beach,” she said.
She also pointed out with the fighting in Ukraine continuing “people may be hesitant to fly to international destinations and in turn they could decide to stay closer to home again.”
Cape May County Department of Tourism director Diane Wieland said a lot of their tourism marketing is being directed to the 30 million people who are within a 300-mile radius of Cape May.
“Many of them have been here before, they want to come back, and we’re working with local businesses to help our visitors stretch their vacations dollars,” she said.
She also noted marketing is also underway in parts of Canada, now that the U.S. Canadian border, closed because of COVID, has been reopened, because many Canadian Tourists are traditionally drawn to Cape May.
Pepenella said once the weather starts to warm up people want to be near the water.
“They love the beaches, they have great memories, they want to create new memories with their new loved ones, grandchildren, reconnect with friends that they went to school with.”
She added whether people want a boardwalk or a romantic getaway they can get it down the shore and there is a strong sense of optimism about the upcoming season down the shore.
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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