High hopes for Wildwood businesses this summer

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WILDWOOD—After 2013’s slow tourism season, Wildwood businesses heard good things last week about what may happen this summer.

During a Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Jay Ford of Crest Savings Bank predicted that visitors will most likely be back for 2014, and be spending more.

“I think it is promising for the summer,” Tracey DuFault, executive director of the chamber, said Jan. 31. She said that Ford touched on the national debt, gross domestic product, and unemployment as well as how those aspects play locally.

For example, now that the recession seems to be winding down, Ford said that more people may be willing to spend some extra cash, according to DuFault. Last year, many people were taking shorter vacations than usual, or, if they were in the Wildwoods for five days or more, they dined out less frequently and spent less money in shops.

This summer, more visitors may stay in town longer and splurge on eating out and buying souvenirs, DuFault said.

“That’s the sort of stuff we want to see and hear,” DuFault said.

Ford pointed to the recession winding down as a major reason for the increased spending, as well as a housing market that is beginning to rebound, DuFault said.

“The housing market isn’t gone, lending institutes want to loan money for businesses and homes and that’s always promising that they are willing to invest,” she said. 

The annual economic forecast luncheon is an opportunity for business owners to get a glimpse at issues affecting the national economy, like the national debt, gross domestic product, and unemployment.

Last year, the luncheon was given by Luke Tilley, regional economic adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. At the time, he had forecasted that the Wildwoods were more likely than other shore communities to have a decent season because it came through Hurricane Sandy with little damage.

While Cape May County fared better than other Jersey Shore communities hit by Sandy, business was not booming.

In August, Diane Wieland predicted business was down between 10 and 20 percent in Cape May County. Patrick Rosenello, who oversees the Special Boardwalk Improvement District, said that even with a fare increase in 2013, the tram car revenue was down about 10 percent, which Rosenello said meant that ridership was down about 15 percent.

According to Ford’s presentation, the average price of a home sold in Wildwood was $274,535, only a slight drop from 2012, but 47 fewer homes were sold in 2013 than 2012. The ten months of Wildwood tourism tax receipts available totaled $3.7 million, compared to $4.06 million in 2012.

“Sandy certainly hurt New Jersey across the board,” DuFault said. “We had high hopes that people from the north would come down and stay in New Jersey.”

Ultimately, DuFault said Ford’s forecast was promising for the 2014 season. Next month, the chamber’s luncheon will focus on tourism. At that point, she said that the local businesses will have an even clearer idea of what to expect this summer.

“From a marketing standpoint, everybody is all in and working really hard,” DuFault said.

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