JERSEY SHORE – With countless sunny days that offered the perfect beach day, the Jersey Shore had quite a successful summer season despite the world still living through a pandemic.
In 2020, many businesses and beaches were closed due to COVID-19. 2021 was the year tourism bounced back. However, several businesses in both Ocean and Monmouth counties had issues with staffing shortages.
This summer, it truly felt like things were returning back to normal. Now that the summer season has officially come to a close, can it be justified to say that Jersey Shore tourism is back to pre-pandemic status? Many officials agreed that this summer there were a lot of visitors.
Sandra Lazzaro, Division Director of Ocean County Business Development & Tourism, said the nice weather greatly impacted the number of people coming to visit.
“What I can say is that the weather was perfect and we had many visitors from out of state. The Jersey Shore is very weather driven and it was perfect,” Lazzaro said. “We had a phenomenal tourism season. The energy level and experiences here in Ocean County were very positive. There were many events throughout the County and still have many more to come in the shoulder season.
“Ocean County has something to offer each visitor so a visitor can make a choice as what event or activity they would like to partake. From farms on the western part of the county to beaches to our downtown areas to our antiquing, we have a lot to offer,” she added.
A hotspot destination in Ocean County is Jenkinson’s Boardwalk and Aquarium. Alexander V. Taylor, who is the Marketing Strategist at Jenkinson’s, also agreed that this year’s great weather influenced the high number of visitors.
“We’re a very weather-depending business. The weather this summer was amazing, probably the best weather I’ve seen in a long time. Although we can’t determine an exact number of people who visited us, what I can say is that a lot of our visitors are day-trippers or people who visit for the weekend. So, the great weather really allowed people to plan out their trips in advance,” Taylor said. “Last year, people were still hesitant on going out, but I think this year a lot more people felt comfortable traveling. I do think people were eager to get out this summer, especially with most restrictions being dropped.”
Another popular spot for families and people of all ages is the Seaside Heights boardwalk, which is home the Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach. Casino Pier Marketing Director Maria Mastoris expressed how this year felt the most like it used to be.
“2021 was a great bounceback year from COVID with people wanting to get out, but this season with the amazing weather, higher gas prices and retail prices, along with travel issues more people stayed local. Therefore, our properties from the waterpark to the arcade to the pier had a good year! We had a better year than last year for sure,” she said. “Last year proved people were wanting to get back out after the COVID years. This year people wanted to go out, too, however the higher gas prices and airfare meant they had to stay closer to home, which helped us gaining local tourism.
“The weather always helps or hurts our industry. Waterpark was busy during the day and the boardwalk portion with the pier rides, attractions, arcade and food were busy later on since the summer weather really was great. We did not have many rain days at all,” Mastoris added.
In Monmouth County, Commissioner Director Tom Arnone noted how this summer tourism was back to its pre-pandemic nature.
“We have spoken to many of our Shore municipalities to get a gauge on how the season went in their town. I am happy to report that nearly all the towns have reported to us that they have seen an increase in visitors this year and are back to pre-pandemic status,” he said. “I am sure that having the driest summer since 1966 helped!”
Despite most aspects retuning to a normal, Arnone added how Monmouth County is still dealing with an employee shortage which has been continuing since 2020.
“Unfortunately, nearly all of our partners also reported that they did face challenges with finding employees. The county continues to work with small businesses year-round to assist them in onboarding and training employees,” Arnone said.