Tourism experts make prediction for 2019 summer season
The New Jersey "shorecast" for summer 2019 is bright and sunny.
Business-wise, at least. Mother Nature can ruin all high hopes.
A strong season at the Jersey Shore is predicted for the months ahead. According to a panel of experts at the 11th annual Jersey Shorecast, sponsored by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT) at Stockton University, a strong economy and diverse offerings are paving the way for solid revenue at beaches, shore merchants and restaurants, casinos and other sites.
Brian Tyrrell, a Stockton professor of hospitality and tourism management, said factors such as low unemployment and a healthy stock market performance have put more money in people's pockets. And they want to spend it.
"Couple that with some stable gas prices, we expect that it's going to be a banner year down at the Jersey Shore, not just in the South but all the way up through Monmouth County," Tyrrell said.
But attracting visitors requires a different formula today than even just a decade ago. Industry professionals on hand for the event, which took place at the new Stockton Atlantic City Academic Center, said they've learned to and continue to diversify the market in order to peak the interest of millennials and create more activities for all visitors.
"People are not looking to just sit on the beach all day," said Diane Wieland, director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism.
From ecotourism like bird watching, to activities like winery tours and sporting events like the upcoming Escape the Cape Triathlon, Wieland said, a more diverse array of offerings is likely to bring in more folks willing to stay overnight and spend money.
Focusing on Atlantic City specifically, industry observers said recent news and signs bode well for the resort. The re-opening of the NJ Transit rail line between Atlantic City and Philadelphia is a welcomed move. The city so far this year has seen 150,000 hotel nights booked, and the ambitious goal of 360,000 is expected to be met.
"Strength is seen for 2019 — based on 2018 numbers — in occupancies, in casino gaming revenue," said Rummy Pandit, LIGHT'S executive director.
Helped by two reopened casinos and the introduction of legal sports betting, Atlantic City's casino revenue rose 7.5 percent in 2018 compared to the year prior.
Some 3,500 jobs were added in Atlantic City last year with the opening of Hard Rock Hotel Casino and Ocean Resort. That's obviously a pleasant statistic, but it also presents a challenge for some locations looking to fill jobs during the peak season.
Panelists said a fifth weekend in August will help boost numbers for the 2019 shore season, but weather is something they can't control, as well as pessimistic weather forecasts.
According to Wieland, the new sales tax on short-term rentals may affect the market. She's heard people say they may not rent out their property because they don't want to deal with tax forms, or they will let a real estate agency handle the property.
In Cape May County, a hot spot for visitors from Canada, officials are battling an unattractive exchange rate that's been stagnant for a few years now.
"It's about 74% right now, so our visitors are losing 26 cents on every dollar," Wieland said. "So we're looking at how to convince Canadian visitors that there's still value when they get here."