CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ –Cape May County continued the historic shoulder season growth in overnight stays from Fall 2021 into the first quarter of 2022, according to the latest Occupancy Tax collection data proved by the New Jersey Treasury. The data measures overnight stays based on the average 5% tax levied on hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns. The data provides month-to-month and year-over-year benchmarks to measure overnight activity. The overnight visitors to Cape May County spend on average $374 per day. A review of the Occupancy Tax data indicates the County has become a 7-month destination from the period of April through October.
"The Occupancy Tax data does not include the impact of the second homeowners, day-trippers, or those visiting friends and family, who also support local businesses and play a large part in the expansion of the shoulder season. Growth during the winter months of January, February, and March has steadily grown compared to prior years. The five winter months, November through March, can't compare to the revenue generated during the summer but do indicate a healthy and promising expansion that can lean toward a 9-month to year-round tourism economy. Cape May City has moved closer to a year-round destination with the other resorts expanding the season through year-round special events. The Wildwoods Convention Center has worked to generate shoulder season events that greatly impact winter visitors, and Ocean City has a high number of second homeowners who return year-round and support local businesses and events", said Diane Wieland, Cape May County Director of Tourism.
Expanding visitor growth is dependent on the ability of the businesses remaining open year-round. Labor concerns and earnings are key, added to the equation is that many businesses are not equipped to be open during the winter months. The County saw 38% of visitors during the fall and 13% during the winter months. Winter tourism activity is growing, fueled by the increase in non-beach year-round attractions and events.
The Post-COVID traveler is looking for experiences that include eco and agri-tourism that are part of the culture tourism trend that is changing the vacation needs and wants of travelers globally. Sustainable and nature-based attractions such as birding, hiking, and trails bring visitors back to the County all year. Beverage tourism is on the rise and wineries, breweries, and distilleries have become gathering places in addition to celebratory venues for weddings, reunions, and concerts. As Cape May County’s lodging industry changes, with more properties renting through online booking engines, the draw to return during the shoulder season has grown.
"The Occupancy Tax collection rates in 2022 are registering record numbers of overnight visitors to the County. Tracking this data clearly demonstrates the fact that the tourism season is expanding on both sides of the summer months. This is also an indication of the success of the Tourism Department's expanded marketing efforts to extend and accelerate the traditional summer season beyond the growth experienced during the pre-Covid years", said Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald M. Thornton, liaison to the Department of Tourism.
Cape May County saw a recovery rate of 96% during 2021, compared to the losses experienced in 2020 when the County saw a decline in direct tourism expenditures of 21.1%. Over the course of one year, the countywide tourism industry regained $1.2 billion, nearly all the $1.5 billion lost from the shutdowns and restrictions imposed during the pandemic. The County also saw an increase in visitors of more than 100,000 in 2019, and more than 2 million more visitors over 2020, with a record 10.3 million in 2021.
"The recovery was not solely a result of the substantial growth during July and August, but also included the fall and early winter as well as early spring growth, per the latest Occupancy Tax data reported. Cape May County saw considerable shoulder season growth which played a part in the overall recovery. A review of the pre- and post-summer season months over the past decade clearly shows the steady growth and expansion of the tourism season on the Jersey Cape. Continued expansion of the tourism season is possible; however, this is dependent on the ability of local businesses to remain open longer, open earlier, or stay open year-round", said Wieland.
"Cape May County's recovery is a result of the resiliency of our small business owners. Year after year they defy the odds, work hard, and reinvent themselves to meet the challenges of the fragile tourism industry. Our county’s economy rests on their shoulders and our success is due to their tenacity and business acumen. The numbers tell the story", added Thornton.
Occupancy Tax Comparison Year-Year