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Cape May County Tourism Spending In 2023 Grew At Slower Pace Than 2022

Cape May County Tourism Spending In 2023 Grew At Slower Pace Than 2022


May 19th 2024

Cape May County’s tourism industry remains robust, with notable growth in 2023, but there are indications that the pace of growth may be slowing. In 2023, tourism spending rose by 4.1% to $7.7 billion, and the number of visitors increased by 1.8% to nearly 11.6 million . This growth follows an 11.9% increase in tourism spending in 2022, suggesting a deceleration that could signal a "new normal" for the future, according to an annual report from Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland.

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“When you take into consideration that the population of New Jersey is 9.2 million, that is a very impressive number,” Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland said of the 11.6 million visitors.

In another trend, technology and demographics are major factors reshaping the tourism industry.

“Technology is shortening the lead time for booking a vacation with the average time for reservations is 2-3 weeks out. While baby boomers tend to reserve farther, 2-3 months out and prefer human contact, online bookings continue to grow among younger vacation planners. Apps are the preferred tour guide for those seeking new experiences,” according to the report.

Overall, Cape May County ranked second in visitor spending among New Jersey’s 21 counties in 2023. Atlantic County, fueled by Atlantic City’s casinos, retained its traditional place as the top tourism draw in the state.

“Normal is the watchword for 2024 and, unfortunately, will include a continued slowdown like 2023. The ‘new normal’ will be a mix of recovery, innovation, and adaptation. The same old, same old will not bring visitors back or attract new ones,” the report concluded.

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“Tourism has proven to be resilient, and the slowdown is not a sign of a weakened industry but an indicator of its strength as things begin to correct itself. Getting back to ‘normal’ will end up being something very different from the (pre-2020) pandemic ‘normal,’ and we are not there yet,” it added.

Wieland noted in an email Friday that the tourism industry was faced with a few challenges in 2023, including one being the end of “revenge travel.”

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“That is the reference to the high number of travelers that took vacations after the COVID lockdowns. After 2021 and 2022 the pent-up demand seemed to be satisfied and travelers were not as anxious to get away. New travel trends have emerged and while travelers are still planning to take vacations, they are exchanging ‘stuff’ for experiences and are conscious of their footprint when planning their vacation,” Wieland explained.

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Several factors contribute to this slowdown. The phenomenon of "revenge travel"—the surge in travel following the COVID-19 lockdowns—appears to have diminished, leading to more measured travel patterns . Additionally, economic uncertainty has impacted discretionary spending, with nearly half of surveyed visitors indicating that economic concerns influenced their vacation plans in 2023 and likely will in 2024 .

Technological advancements and changing demographics are also reshaping the tourism landscape. Younger travelers prefer shorter booking windows and digital tools for planning, while baby boomers continue to book further in advance and seek more personal interactions.

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Despite these challenges, Cape May County remains optimistic due to its strengths as a "drive-to" destination within a 300-mile radius of 30 million people. Its attractions, including pristine beaches, cultural heritage, and eco-friendly activities, continue to draw visitors. The county is adapting to new travel trends, emphasizing local culture, pet-friendly accommodations, and a variety of experiences that align with evolving traveler preferences. 

For more details, the full Cape May County Tourism Impact Report can be accessed here!

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