Poll: Lingering pandemic could squash July Fourth tourism surge

Daniel J. Munoz//June 28, 2021

Poll: Lingering pandemic could squash July Fourth tourism surge

Daniel J. Munoz//June 28, 2021

Is the COVID-19 pandemic finally over? A new poll released June 28 found many Americans worry enough about COVID-19 that they still intend to curtail upcoming July Fourth and ensuing summer plans.

According to the Monmouth University Polling Institute, 54% of American adults said they plan to attend a July Fourth barbeque, compared to 69% in 2019, before the pandemic.

Twenty-six percent of respondents said they would attend a fireworks event, compared to 51% in 2019. Eighteen percent of respondents said they would attend a July Fourth parade, compared to 28% in 2019.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to take part in any of those activities, according to the Monmouth poll, which counts on the responses of 810 American adults interviewed via the telephone between June 9 and 14. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

“Months ago, President Joe Biden expressed hope that the Fourth of July holiday would ‘begin to mark our independence from this virus,’” the June 28 report reads. “The Monmouth University Poll, though, finds a sizable number of Americans will be holding back on their typical holiday festivities this weekend.”

Summertime sadness?

Many tourism insiders across the Jersey Shore – a multi-billion dollar cash cow for the state – said they expect a drawn-out tourism rebound as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the spread of the pandemic wanes and more people receive the vaccine. Casinos, entertainment and event operators at Atlantic City said they expect a 2021 summer rebound.

Jeffrey Vasser, who heads the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism, said he expects this summer will fare better than 2020 when many COVID-19 restrictions were in effect and a vaccine had not yet been released to the public. But they’d still struggle to overtake some of the record-breaking tourism metrics seen in 2019.

A May report released by the state tourism office found that state tourism visitation dropped by 27% from a “record-breaking” 116 million visitors in 2019 to 86.4 million tourists in 2020. Tourist spending dropped 37% from $46.4 billion in 2019 to $29.4 billion in 2020, breaking a decade of growth that began in 2009 following the Great Recession.

One reason for the sluggish rebound starting this summer, according to Vasser and other business owners, are the hiring shortages that have plagued the retail, restaurant, entertainment and hospitality industries which make up the lion’s share of the Jersey Shore economy.

Jeffrey Vasser, executive director, New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.

But, Vasser continued, the hesitancy for tourists to board an airplane, coupled with both restrictions and waning interest on international travel, means drive-in markets such as the Jersey Shore could have a leg up this summer.

The Monmouth poll found that 14% of Americans planned to travel within 200 miles of their home, 27% planned to travel further away, and 52% had no trip planned. Thirty-four percent of respondents said their plans are the same as any other summer, while 26% said they scaled back or canceled this year’s summer travel plans.

“Overseas trips have taken the biggest hit, but the number taking a vacation closer to home really hasn’t changed,” said Patrick Murray, who heads the polling institute. “While some travelers are downgrading their plans, others are simply opting to wait at least another year before resuming summer travel.”

Before the onset of COVID-19 and ensuing restrictions, 13% of Americans said they planned to travel closer to home, though that dropped just to 11% following the onset of the pandemic. Travel plans for further away from home dropped from 33% before COVID-19 to just 12% once the pandemic took hold.