Tourism was up at the Jersey Shore in 2022, and this summer should be even better, according to Stockton University’s 15th annual Shorecast.
South Jersey resort towns have rebounded from COVID-19 setbacks and are expected to trend up in visitors and tourism activity this year, said Ben Rose with the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association.
“Coming out of the pandemic in 2021, Cape May County and the Wildwoods had a banner record year. 2022 exceeded that by, I think, 12%,” Rose said. “So we see continued growth and explosion of tourism in southern New Jersey. We see that continuing into 2023.”
Rose noted that the taxes generated in Cape May County for tourism outpaced Atlantic City, which he believes is a sign of more people heading to the beaches because they are within driving distance, saving money that would otherwise be spent flying somewhere for vacation.
“People are coming out after being kind of caged up for so long and wanting to explore different things,” said Michael Brennan, executive chef at Cardinal restaurant in Atlantic City. “There’s new operators opening up on the block, new entertainment venues, and people wanting to come out and experience this so-called normalcy that they’ve been deprived of.”
Last month, Atlantic City opened its first recreational marijuana dispensary as part of a 24-block “green zone” where marijuana businesses can operate from Maryland to Boston avenues.
Brennan, who lives atop a cannabis store, said he’s not ready to take a stand on a concept of turning part of the casino town into a place for people who want to consume pot. He believes that better security in areas other than the boardwalk is giving tourists confidence to venture into neighborhoods to explore restaurants and other businesses like his.
The shorecast also shows employment is still down by about 5,000 jobs compared to before the pandemic, but wages are higher. Better pay could be partially a result of that worker shortage.
Another tourism indicator showed vehicles passing through the Pleasantville tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway last year were below 2021’s numbers and lower than 2019’s count. Experts say that may be a sign that higher gas prices had some impact on the summer visitors.
Brick and mortar casino revenue, for the most part, was up last year compared to 2021. That revenue was still lower than 2019’s totals except in July. June and August gambling receipts were down, slightly below 2019. Spending by people attending conventions in Atlantic City was way up in July compared to 2021. Spending by conventioneers got a boost when Atlantic City hosted the 113th National NAACP convention in 2022.
As for this year, both Atlantic and Cape May counties are predicting an increase in tourism over the course of this year. That’s due in part to more conventions on the schedule this year, as well as new marketing campaigns for beach tourism in both areas.