CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ -- Occupancy tax data released by the New Jersey Treasury through June 2021 is showing that Cape May County is well on the way to recover from the losses in tourism expenditures experienced in 2020. During the first half of 2021, the collection rate was 25.8% over what was collected during the first six months of 2019. To date, Cape May County has generated $4,685,643.65 in occupancy tax or $1.39 million over the first half of 2019. The average overnight visitor to the County spends $374 per person, per day. This spending is spread across sectors that include Lodging, Food and Beverage, Retail, Recreation, and Transportation.
Occupancy tax is reported monthly and is used as a benchmark to measure overnight stays in the County. Occupancy tax is levied on hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns with 5% of the tax going to the State to support Tourism, the Arts, and History, in addition to other non-tourism projects and programs. County officials are comparing current year data to 2019, a record tourism year, to provide a clear picture of tourism growth. In 2020, Cape May County saw a decline in direct tourism expenditures of 21.1% or nearly $1.5 billion, from a record $6.9 billion in 2019.
"The tourism industry in Cape May County is once again leading the state in generating tourism revenue and now leading in the recovery from the impact of the pandemic. COVID created pent-up desires for people to get out and resume a safe and normal life and enjoy what summer has to offer, and that can be found here. The increase in year-round visitors has driven the County to record numbers across the board in tourism spending. In spite of the labor shortage, our business owners are doing an outstanding job in providing visitors with the best vacation experience they have come to expect. While we continue to show progress in expanding our economy through additional career opportunities in technology and aviation, our top industry county-wide continues to be tourism", said Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald M. Thornton, liaison to the Department of Tourism.
Statewide, tourism continues to struggle with the 6-month occupancy collection rate down by 35.9%. The beach counties of Atlantic, Ocean, and Monmouth are doing well with Cape May County taking the lead in occupancy tax collection during the first six-month of 2021. Non-beach counties are showing an increase in occupancy tax revenue but lag behind the 2019 numbers. Nationally, leisure tourism is showing a faster recovery rate than business tourism in both domestic and international travel due to the variants, travel bans, and decrease in air travel.
"Cape May County launched an aggressive marketing campaign in early 2020 and has continued to promote the County as a year-round destination. Our message changed as restrictions were lifted and included the County's "Safely Together" message that served to ensure visitors that we were following the CDC mandates. We experienced a strong fall and winter 2020 with record growth in September and October, and steady growth during the winter. The 2021 spring/summer campaign got off to a great start and the occupancy numbers show the effectiveness of our promotional efforts. Five out of the first six months saw double-digit growth in overnight stays. May and June were record months with June 2021 outpacing all other counties. Occupancy tax in June 2021 was 27% over 2019, which is $537,700 in increased dollars spent in lodging", reported Diane Wieland, Director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism.
"While our businesses will never recoup the losses from 2020, the Board of Commissioners are committed to supporting the tourism efforts to recover and move forward, leaving 2020 behind us. We have allocated additional funding from the American Rescue Plan to expand the marketing of the County and market the fall and winter visitors within a 200-mile radius. The funding will also bolster our spring and summer 2022 campaign", added Thornton.