ATLANTIC CITY – The volatility of gasoline prices notwithstanding, a panel of academic and tourism experts expect 2011 to be a banner year for businesses at the southern New Jersey shore.
“In 35 years of tracking gas prices, they have ticked up 18 times and ticked down 17 times, so who knows what will happen this year? We really can’t predict,” said Dr. Oliver Cooke, associate professor of economics at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “Nevertheless, consumer sentiments, a downward trend in unemployment and many other indicators are pointing to an upturn (in overall business at the shore.)”
Cooke’s research was in agreement with the other expert panelists presenting their views on the summer tourism season at today’s Jersey Shorecast, presented by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “The consistency of positive signs we are seeing make it hard to deny the economic recovery will continue,” Cooke said.
In addition to Cooke and Stockton colleague Dr. Brian Tyrell, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management studies, the panel included representatives of chambers of commerce and the former head of one of the region’s largest employers. The event took place at Stockton’s Carnegie Library Center here and drew a large contingent of local business people, government officials and media. Michael Busler, associate professor of finance, finance track coordinator and a fellow at the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton moderated the Shorecast.
“Parking revenues, rentals, hotel accommodations and beach tag sales — all strong indicators of what kind of season we expect to have — are way ahead of last year’s pace,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. She said Ocean City did not have as bad a year as was predicted in 2009, had a strong year last season and expects even bigger things in 2011. She attributed Ocean City’s success to hosting over 250 special events, target marketing the town’s large segment of owners of second homes and “pushing the brand” of family-friendly attractions on the island. “Clean and safe is a message we put out to families, and making sure we have something special for families to do each and every day,” she said.
Cooke said he hesitated to concur with recent speculation that gas prices could tumble in time for the start of the season and indicated the largest price swings, up and down, are usually around 13 cents per gallon. That would put gas prices in a worst case scenario at about $4.05 per gallon this summer, a spike he said was not likely to keep visitors away.
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