Owners of Jersey shore accommodations are seeing signs of a rebound after the coronavirus pandemic sent a wave of cancellations their way this winter, but regardless of how busy the season is, this summer at the beach will be different. Expect certain amenities to be off limits, later check-in times, and lots of reminders about preventing community spread of COVID-19.
That’s the view of three shore tourism business operators during a recent NJBIA webinar on safely reopening shore tourism. The webinar featured Allan Dechert, broker for Ferguson Dechert Real Estate, Inc.; Joann DelVescio, executive director of the New Jersey Campground Owners and Outdoor Lodging Association; and Mayur R. Chheda, principal and chief development officer of Infinity Hotel Group. The three guests spoke on operating short-term rentals, campgrounds, and hotels and motels during the pandemic.
All three said their industries were hit by a wave of reservation cancellations when the pandemic first hit, but are now encouraged by the level of inquiries they are receiving.
“People are tired of being stuck up in their homes and they want to get out,” Dechert said. “They don’t want to fly. They want to come to the Jersey shore. The number of inquiries we’re getting and the number of leases we’re drawing is great. The activity has really been good.”
DelVescio added that campgrounds offer tourists extra protection because they bring their own campers and RVs with them, limiting their exposure to the virus.
“They feel like they will be more comfortable in their own environment,” DelVescio said. “We’re very happy with the way the reservations are going right now on the campgrounds.”
Chheda was a little more reserved. Demand for hotel rooms was hit hard but is slowly coming back, and cancellations have slowed. Part of the reason is that hotels were not forced to close during the state of emergency, although many did for economic and/or safety reasons.
“We’ve seen increased activity even last weekend with the opening of the boardwalk and beaches,” Chheda said. “People were coming down even with the weather not being so great and cooperative. People were just excited to get out of the house and get some fresh air and see others.
Like everything else in this coronavirus world, summers at the shore will be different. For one thing, cleaning has taken a much higher priority.
Dechert said that his company and probably many other weekly rental enterprises have moved their check-in times back two hours to allow for more thorough cleaning of rental properties. As a result, visitors can expect check-in to be at 3 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
A lot of hotels and motels are waiting on guidance on opening pools, but Chheda said regardless of the guidance, his hotels probably will not open them anytime soon simply because it is too difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance on the deck surrounding it.
DelVescio said likewise campgrounds will have to curb activities and probably have amenities like camp stores using curbside pickup for purchases. She said the one thing that all facilities should expect is plenty of signs reminding people of social distancing, washing their hands and wearing a mask.
“From a public safety perspective, we thought this summer is not going to be like last summer and we may have to do away with some things,” Chheda said.