COURT HOUSE - Perfect weather over the summer months brought plenty of sunshine and visitors to Cape May County.
According to a release, all indications are pointing to a record season with an increase in visitors and spending in all sectors measured.
Occupancy tax collection from January through July 2019 is up 8.4% over 2018 with an increase of $544,922, indicating a rise in overnight visitors. July, the latest data available, generated nearly half of what was collected during the prior 6 months, bringing the total collection to date to slightly over $7 million, according to Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland.
The 2018 Occupancy tax 12-month collection rate was $12.5 million. The increase in Occupancy Tax collection indicates a minimal increase in room rates with a substantial uptick in overnight stays.
Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, liaison to the Cape May County Department of Tourism stated, "The numbers are compelling and point to what I have witnessed in my travels around the county. Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kick-off of the summer season and broke records for most businesses. This pattern was followed by a strong July 4 weekend with some resorts reporting 100% occupancy.
"An increase of more than 8% in Occupancy Tax, without the August data included is very encouraging. I strongly believe we are looking at another big year for tourism in Cape May County."
Since it's too early to get the full economic impact of the summer, the Tourism Department uses the hard numbers available such as Occupancy Tax to gauge the season.
A full 2019 tourism report will be available through the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism early in 2020.
The average overnight spending in Cape May County is $374 and impacts all sectors measured, which includes lodging, food, and beverage, retail, recreation, and transportation. Cape May County leads the state in tourism spending in Food and Beverage, Retail, Recreation, and Rental Income sectors.
Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton stated, "Over the years we have experienced steady growth in tourism expenditures, generating $6.6 billion in 2018. Cape May County is becoming a more year-round destination drawing visitors and second homeowners back during the fall and winter months who support our special events, restaurants, and retail outlets. Eco and Agritourism is trending and birding and wineries are attracting shoulder season growth.
Businesses are staying open longer and playing a large part in the county's expanding economy. Tourism is the economic driver in Cape May County generating 60% of the total employment and complements new and emerging industries that the county has been aggressively pursuing, such as aviation and technology.”
"The numbers are mind-boggling and just continue to grow year after year," stated Hayes. "A county with a population of less than 95,000 people hosts nearly 10 million visitors each year. We have a unique tourism dynamic with very few chain businesses, our success is the results of hard-working small business owners that have created a multibillion-dollar tourism industry that ranks second in the state under Atlantic County.
"I credit the work of our businesses, tourism organizations and the County Tourism Department that is recognized throughout the state for their innovative and effective marketing and promotion programs that work to increase tourism to the county."