WILDWOOD – Tourism in the Wildwoods bounced back in 2014 after an off year because of Hurricane Sandy.
The Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority outlined its 2015 marketing strategy in a presentation Tuesday to business leaders at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
Tourism taxes were up 9 percent last year to a record $4.2 million, Authority Director John Siciliano said. Tourism numbers were down slightly both locally and statewide in 2013, a decline attributed largely to misconceptions about damage to shore resorts caused by Hurricane Sandy. While the storm caused devastation to some shore towns in New Jersey, most Cape May County businesses cleaned up flood damage and reopened by the following summer.
The tourism tax was up 3 percent over 2012 numbers. Wildwood generates more than half of Cape May County’s $8 million in tourism taxes, the 2 percent fee levied on hotel rooms and food and beverages.
Wildwood plans to stick with its “Can’t Stop This Feeling!” advertising campaign this spring to reach visitors in the Eastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey target markets.
The authority conducted market research this year for the first time since 2006. It moved up its advertising blitz one month to begin in March after surveys found that’s when most people start making their travel plans.
The campaign will focus on attracting Eastern Pennsylvania visitors with TV spots and billboards on prime Philadelphia highways and the Walt Whitman Bridge. Wildwood also will target the Harrisburg market in particular this year.
Marketing Director Ben Rose said Wildwood faces increasing competition from out-of-state markets such as Ocean City, Md., and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Meanwhile, New Jersey opted to spend its $9 million tourism budget on a fall and winter campaign, leaving a void over the summer, he said.
The marketing research also found a growing interest in the Wildwoods among Generation-Y, the young parents ages 21 to 38. This is no small victory for a resort that depends on families coming to the island generation after generation, he said.
“The torch has been passed to the next generation of parents,” he said.