With only a couple of weeks to go before the long Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer, a panel of tourism experts is predicting a strong summer season down the Jersey Shore.

During the 14th annual Jersey Shorecast at Stockton University’s Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism, Oliver Cooke, a professor of economics at Stockton and editor of the South Jersey Economic Review, said last year was truly spectacular because of pent-up demand and federal stimulus payments.

“I think the summer of 2022 is going to be another very robust, very strong summer shore season," he said.

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Sharon Franz, the sales and marketing director at Steel Pier in Atlantic City said online sales for rides for the upcoming season have been strong but “people are going to be looking for deals, they’re going to be looking for discounts, they’re going to be looking for their best offers, I can already see that coming down the pike.”

Inflation is a concern

Diane Wieland, the director of tourism for the Cape May County Department of Tourism, said a surge of Canadian tourists is expected to return in July and August, which will help to create a strong summer season in her neck of the woods but inflation will certainly play a role in everyone’s vacation plans.

“While everyone is probably going to spend less, we’re hoping that the more people who come here we can make up for that,” she said.

Cooke also expressed concern about rising prices.

“I think inflation has definitely been obviously the headline story, I think it’s going to continue to play a huge role out over the rest of 2022,” he said.

He said with prices for everything continuing to rise rapidly “this does start to become a question for many families regarding higher discretionary spending.”

Stay closer to home

He also noted with airfare prices shooting much higher many people in Jersey and neighboring states may decide to stay closer to home when it is vacation time, and this could benefit South Jersey especially.

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Franz agreed higher prices for gas are a concern and she said the increasing cost of prizes given out (because shipping has become more expensive) has forced an increase in ticket prices but “we’re thinking outside of the box.”

Wieland said inflation is definitely troublesome but “the one thing we have on our side is that the response from so many of our visitors in our survey is we want to go away, we want to go the beach, we want to experience nature. “

Jim Ziereis, the vice president of hotel sales at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, said with several new restaurants and attractions opening soon everyone is bullish on the upcoming summer season.

The panel members all agreed the ongoing labor shortage is challenging for hotels, restaurants and other tourist venues down the shore, but the return of international students this summer, plus an uptick in local teens working at many area attractions will help to cover many open positions.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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