Counties along the Shore fared better than those that depend on indoor activities, the study found. Bed taxes collected by the state in Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties are projected to hit $19.2 million in 2021 – an increase of 71% and 22% over 2020 and 2019, respectively. Summer beach tag sales also surpassed 2019 levels. Cape May’s 2021 revenue was 35% up from 2019, while Ocean City posted a 4.5% increase.
“We have not seen data to show that there was a slowdown due to the renewed virus announcements,” Jeffrey Vasser, the executive director of the Division of Travel and Tourism, said in an email. “People felt comfortable being outside.”
Statewide, hotel room sales this summer were up 44.6% over 2020 while revenue was up 74.8%, according to the report.
While impressive and expected by many in the state’s travel sector, the hotel visitation rate was still 14.4% less than in 2019 – widely considered a record year – while revenue was down by 13.4% from that year.
The report was prepared by analytics firm Tourism Economics.
Summer tourism around the country may have been depressed by the emergence and spread of the delta variant across the country. Even Thanksgiving travel was not expected to beat 2019 levels. A poll from late June released by the Monmouth University Polling Institute showed that 28% of Americans intended to curtail their plans for July 4 and and the summer.
Other factors, such as hiring shortages in the retail, dining, leisure and hospitality industries, might also have shaped the numbers. Vasser acknowledged that hiring was a problem, particularly the lack of J-1 visa workers. “Impacted businesses handled it differently but I applaud them for their fortitude,” he said.
More detailed statistics are released in May, just before the start of the summer tourism season. Figures from this past May show visitation plunged 27% from 2019 and 2020, dropping from 116 million tourists to 86.4 million tourists.
Spending dropped 37%, from $46.4 billion in 2019 to $29.4 billion in 2020, marking the end of a decade of resurgence in the state’s tourism sector following the Great Recession.
The easing of business restrictions and wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines prompted optimism along the Jersey Shore and and among Atlantic City’s nine casinos.
“Like last year, people are looking to get out and being outside is what people feel is safe,” Vasser said in an April interview as the state and its businesses were trying to gauge what a post-pandemic travel season could look like.
State lawmakers are hoping to help tourism continue to rebound next year. A bill moving through the state Legislature would use $25 million in federal relief funds to promote and assist those sectors. Assembly Bill 5689 would earmark $5 million for use by state-recognized Destination Marketing Organizations to work with New Jersey’s overall marketing campaign and $20 million to promote travel and tourism in unspecified ways.
“Travel and tourism is one of the largest employment sectors and highest revenue-generating industries in New Jersey,” said one of the primary sponsors, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-6th District, in a statement. “It is paramount that we promote businesses and destinations in our state that have been so negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]