Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Shore Tourism Partly Sunny

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Shore Tourism Partly Sunny

Article excerpt

As the Shore tourism season comes to an unofficial close, Tropical Storm Hermine threatened to wash out at least part of the Labor Day holiday weekend and again showed that coastal businesses are uniquely at the mercy of the weather.

And this summer -- the fourth warmest on records dating to 1895 - - that meant that sometimes it was just too hot even to go to the beach. At Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, those oppressively steamy days "seemed to scare people away," said marketing director Toby Wolf, who called 2016 "a decent summer."

There were many good omens for Shore businesses this year, including a healthy job market and low gas prices, which tend to encourage more day trips and vacations. But between the heat and a few rainy days -- not to mention this weekend's tropical storm -- this summer's weather didn't measure up to 2015, when temperatures were milder and there wasn't a rainy weekend day all summer.

Official economic figures won't be in until next year, but early estimates on spending at the Shore this year were mixed, with some locations -- including Asbury Park -- reporting big gains, while others had less exciting results.

At Skipper Dipper, an ice cream store in Long Beach Township, owner Dave Plowitz summed up the season as "totally fine."

"Not spectacular, but totally OK," he said.

As they tally the results of summer 2016, the tourism industry and government officials are also working to bring visitors back during the fall.

"We've expanded the tourism season dramatically," said Tom Arnone, Monmouth County freeholder director, pointing to a long list of autumn festivals and events. "It's a short season, Memorial Day to Labor Day. Some of these businesses have to extend it to at least the end of October to survive."

Summertime Shore spending is key to New Jersey's tourism sector, which accounts for a significant share of the state's economy. Last year, tourism -- half of it at the Shore -- brought more than $43 billion into the state's economy, and employed more than 300,000 people.

Asbury Park was one of the bright spots, with July's official opening of The Asbury Hotel, the first new hotel in the city in 50 years. Sales of beach badges were up 20 percent, according to Joe Bongiovanni, beach safety supervisor. "People are rediscovering Asbury Park," he said.

Bruce Springsteen's "My City of Ruins," written in 2000, is about Asbury Park's hard times. Sixteen years later, Travel + Leisure magazine named it one of the 10 best places to travel.

Tim McLoone owns 11 restaurants in New Jersey, including three along the coast, and his Asbury Park location is the one that stood out, he said.

"Asbury has gone through the roof," McLoone said. "We are doing numbers there we could have never projected. ... The town is jumping."

'Lot of strong weeks'

Farther south on the 127-mile coast, Diane Wieland, director of tourism for Cape May County, reported higher municipal revenues from hotel taxes, beach badge sales and parking for towns in Cape May. …

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