Contact: Diane Wieland, Director
Cape May County Department of Tourism
July 28, 2017
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ – If you noticed the influx of Canadian license plates on the roads and parking lots and hear the French dialect in the stores and attractions in Cape May County, it is not your imagination. Visitors from the Province of Quebec are returning to Cape May County in larger numbers after a three year decline, and local businesses are happy to see them back. The Quebec Construction Holiday is traditionally the beginning of the influx of visitors from the Province. This year the holiday started on July 23 and runs through August 6.
The Construction Holiday, which started in 1970, is a legislated two week paid holiday for those in the construction industry in Quebec. Many other construction related businesses also close during those two weeks and most of them plan their summer vacation during that time.
After a decline in Canadian tourism across the United States of more than 12% in 2015 and a decline of 6% last year, we are seeing an overall increase of 1% in Canadian visitors to the US this year, according the U.S. Travel Association. A one percent increase in visitors to the United States represents a potential growth of 200,000 visitors from Canada.
This is great news for Cape May County businesses. The weakened Canadian dollar over the past three years has impacted Canadian travel in Cape May County and
represented a 2% decrease in visitors over the past three years. Visitors from the Province of Quebec represented 11% of the total visitor base in 2015 and in 2016 that number went to 9%.
Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, who oversees the Cape May County Tourism Department, reported, “We are continually watching the exchange rate and found the Loonie was gaining since early February 2017, when it traded at 74 cents. We noted fluctuations over the past few months and saw it at 76 cents in early July. Today the Canadian dollar is trading at 80 cents, from a low of under 69 cents in January 2016. This is very encouraging news for our businesses that cater to Canadian visitors, especially now while they are in the County.”
The Cape May County Department of Tourism has been promoting in the Province of Quebec since 1968, when they had a part time office. From 1970 through 1995, the department had a full time office in downtown Montreal. The office was closed in late 1995 and a Canadian Public Relations company was hired to represent Cape May County in Quebec.
The Department of Tourism continues to market in Quebec through a print, radio, television and social media campaign and works with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). In 2014, the department expanded its marketing reach to include the Quebec City region, two hours north of Montreal.
Freeholder Hayes was part of the sales mission to promote the county in that region and it has paid off. "The Canadian visitor is our largest International market and it made sense to expand that visitor base. They have a high awareness of our assets and are willing to drive the extra miles to vacation in Cape May County," Hayes added.
The tourism department attends a big 4-day travel show in Montreal each year and conducts a PR campaign that has brought dozens of journalists to the county over the past few years for Familiarization (FAM) Tours. The FAMS have resulted in millions of dollars in PR value through articles in Canadian newspapers, television, radio and magazines. Articles have appeared in Canadian Elle magazine, Velo magazine, CAA Touring, Montreal Gazette, Journal de Montreal and Journal de Quebec, to name a few.
Diane Wieland, Director of the Department of Tourism, reported an increase in inquiries to the department in response to the 2017 advertising campaign as well as 14% more downloads of French literature on the Jersey Cape website. Distribution of French literature produced by the department and picked up at the Montreal Travel Show increased by 11% in 2017. Interest in the County by those attending the travel show indicated the loyal French visitors was returning for their summer vacation in spite of the exchange rate.
Polling local business owners regarding Canadian reservations for 2017, found a resurgence in reservation and a high return of visitors from the French speaking Province of Quebec, and a significant number of visitors from the Quebec City region. Reports from hoteliers, campground owners, restaurants and attractions indicate more Quebecers are coming this year, and most saying they have arrived and there are noticeably more than last year.
While the numbers are not in yet, some local businesses are conservatively reporting an increase of 10% over last year. A report from the Ocean View Welcome Center, managed by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, said they have seen an uptick in French speaking visitors and an increase in French literature picked up over the past week. Scott Turner, at Ocean View Campground is reporting an uptick in Quebec visitors as well. Kevin Celli, manager at Willow Creek Winery noticed the increase in French speaking customers last Sunday and has seen many more than 2016.
According to the latest available data from Canada Statistics’ international travel survey, there were 214,900 visits or vehicles that traveled to New Jersey from Quebec. It is estimated that 70% traveled to Cape May County, spending $1024 per person per visit.