Almost two-and-a-half years into the pandemic, many of us are looking forward to summer—being outdoors, vacationing and, in true Jersey fashion, heading down the Shore. With potential new Covid-19 variants still a concern, what can we expect for tourism in the Garden State?
New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism (NJTT) executive director Jeff Vasser anticipates
record-breaking visitors this year. “The shining light the past two years has been our beaches; throughout the pandemic, residents and travelers enjoyed the outdoors in our state,” says Vasser. “Our visitation numbers increased in the second half of 2020, and 2021 performed even better, exceeding pre-pandemic numbers in some sectors.”
Vasser expects that almost all Covid restrictions will be lifted for summer 2022, and Shore visitors may exceed 2019.
Vasser also anticipates that people will be visiting New Jersey from farther away, since domestic air travel has rebounded.
Travelers are getting more comfortable staying in hotels and rentals, too. In 2020 and 2021, hotel room demand was suppressed—even though beach badge sales hit record numbers in 2021. Trends are also looking positive for house rentals. “Early indicators in counties like Monmouth and Ocean reveal that second-home rentals have been at a record pace and rate this year,” says Vasser.
Weather is perhaps the most challenging factor when visiting the Shore. However, NJTT and beach towns promote many activities that can be held rain or shine. “For example, Cape May County is promoting tasting rooms in their wineries and breweries. Other venues, like the Harriet Tubman Museum that opened last summer, are also receiving a lot of visitors,” Vasser says.
Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties are all expected to do well this summer; Vasser anticipates that Atlantic City will also have an extremely positive season. The Division of Gaming Enforcement recently released its 2021 numbers, which demonstrated that 2021 beat pre-pandemic numbers.
“This had to do with the two new casinos, Hard Rock and Ocean, which created a lot more supply, so more people could come in,” says Vasser, adding, “Bally’s, Harrah’s, Tropicana and Caesars are all renovating.”
But Vasser reminds us that the smaller Shore destinations like Harvey Cedars continue to do well because some families enjoy quiet beaches, away from crowds and away from risk.
Vasser says there are other go-to destinations, such as breweries and wineries, that have done great jobs adding outdoor experiences by bringing in food trucks and live music. Focusing on non-beach attractions is important since, once beach hotels are at capacity, people look to other destinations.
Says Vasser, “We have been pushing the arts, culture and outdoor festivals around the state, which allow more people to come to New Jersey in the summer.”
The outdoors equate to a mindset of safety, says Vasser. “Wellness is a buzzword, and because of that, activities like hiking, canoeing and mountain biking in places like Sussex County have also done well throughout the pandemic and are leisure pursuits we expect to do well again this summer.”
For more information on what to do in New Jersey this summer, go to visitnj.org.
Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including his latest, Lessons in Leadership. He is also an Emmy® Award–winning anchor on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. Check out steveadubato.org. Steve has appeared on CNN, FOX5 in NY and NBC’s Today Show, and his “Lessons in Leadership” video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10 am on News 12+. Steve also provides executive leadership coaching and seminars for a variety of corporations and organizations both regionally and nationally. For more information, visit stand-deliver.com.