CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ – Tourism experts have cautiously predicted worldwide tourism will recover to the pre-covid numbers by this time in 2023. For many sectors of the industry, it could be longer before they see a return to the tourism numbers of 2019. The beach counties in New Jersey saw improvement in the summer of 2021 based on Occupancy Tax data, and a majority of Cape May County tourism businesses could see a full recovery in 2022.
Cape May County’s lodging industry last year surpassed the Occupancy Tax collection rate of 2019, which was a record year, and smashed the rate of collection in 2020. Based on the year-end Occupancy Tax collection report for 2021, the County saw an increase in collection over 2020 of 63.4% and an increase of 24.5% over 2019.
“We started to see an increase in tourism spending in July 2020 when some restrictions were lifted. Our businesses reopened and followed CDC guidelines and visitors were returning in numbers better than expected. We were coming off a record 2019 with $6.9 billion in tourism spending. However, Cape May County saw a decline of 21.1% in spending in 2020. One in every five dollars spent in 2019 was lost due to COVID-19 in 2020. We knew it would be a difficult climb to recover from those losses”, said County
Commission Director, Gerald M. Thornton, liaison to the Department of Tourism and Public Information.
Occupancy Tax is a 5% charge levied on hotel, motel, and Bed and Breakfast Inn room rates, and serves as a metric to measure overnight stays. Occupancy Tax revenue is also used as a gauge to measure all tourism sectors such as food and beverage, retail, recreation; and transportation. As lodging goes, so do the other sectors. On average the overnight visitor to Cape May County spends $374 per person, per day.
“The Occupancy Tax collection data, provided monthly by the New Jersey Treasury gives us hard numbers that measure overnight stays in Cape May County. The County experienced a loss in direct tourism spending of $1.54 billion in 2020, the first time Cape May County has seen a decline in tourism spending since 1994. This decline knocked us back to the tourism numbers of 2013, we lost 8 years of growth”, reported Diane Wieland, Director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism.
Cape May County went from $6,904.9 in 2019, a record year, to $5,448.2 in 2020, under 2013, with direct tourism spending of $5.519 billion. With those losses, Cape May County still generated the highest amount in total direct tourism spending in the State, outpacing Atlantic County for the first time in 2020, moving from being ranked second in prior years. The lodging sector experienced the biggest loss with a 14.37% decline equaling $383.2 million in 2020.
Cape May County saw an increase in Occupancy Tax collection in ten of the twelve months in 2021. January and February saw a decline over 2019 but made up for those two months during the balance of the year. July and August were record months and a strong fall and early winter saw an increase of nearly 25 percent over 2019.
“Additional marketing funding provided by the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners allowed us to up our game and expand our marketing efforts in the fall and winter. The increases in Occupancy Tax data are a strong indicator that the campaign worked and helped in the County's recovery. The full tourism report will be released by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism in early May. We will then better determine how the increase in overnight stays impacted total spending and where we are in terms of full recovery from the pandemic”, added Wieland.