Can you afford a day trip to the Jersey Shore this summer?
New Jerseyans are apparently still trying to make up for the time and fun lost during COVID lockdowns.
Compared to 2019, tourism revenue figures across the Garden State are expected to be significantly higher in 2023, according to officials.
At the same time, industry observers along the shore are expecting a banner season — perhaps even better than what was recorded in 2022.
"We're on pace right now to exceed 2022's numbers," Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwood Tourism Authority, said of local and Cape May County trends during a "shorecast" event presented by Stockton University on Wednesday.
According to Rose, the southern shore is seeing "a lot of new visitors," perhaps as a result of air travel prices and delays.
"People are looking for a destination closer to home," he said.
New Jersey tourism destinations may get the bodies to visit, but experts aren't sure how much inflation will impact consumer spending.
Visitors of New Jersey boardwalks experienced major sticker shock in 2022, as merchants were forced to pass on higher costs to the consumer.
"Every cent, every dollar that gets tacked on to bringing a product in house ... adds to the end price," said Michael Brennan, a restaurant owner in Atlantic City.
Last summer, while working in the kitchen at a restaurant in Somers Point, Brennan saw the price of boxed romaine lettuce shoot up from $30 to $125.
"When you look at a menu, you wouldn't expect a Caesar salad to cost you $20, but the reality was that's what restaurants had to charge within that moment to even make a profit on what was a profit maker," Brennan said.
The ultimate decision maker for summer revenue is one that no one can predict in mid-May: the weather. A bad run can severely limit an outdoor attraction's bottom line.
According to New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, who testified before the Senate Budget Committee in late April, forecasters believe that tourism in 2023 will record a $49 billion impact, and even more in 2024, compared to $46 billion in 2019.