By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City’s preseason beach tag sales are nearly double what they were during this time last year in an early sign that a blockbuster summer may be shaping up for 2021 as the shore continues to recover from the pandemic.
Even before the summer vacation season traditionally gets underway on Memorial Day weekend, Sea Isle already has reaped nearly $800,000 in revenue from beach tag sales, said Paula Doll, the city’s chief financial officer.
Doll characterized this year’s sales figures as a step toward “getting back more to normal.”
“I know that I am excited for the summer,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I’m hopeful and excited that we’re going to have a great summer season.”
So far, the city has sold 38,529 seasonal beach tags for total revenue of $770,580. At the same time last year, during the early stages of the pandemic, the city had sold 19,541 preseason tags for just $390,820 in revenue, Doll said.
Beach tag sales were delayed last year due to the pandemic, which is a major factor in the dramatic difference between the revenue figures for this year and 2020.
In another comparison, beach tag revenue for 2021 is also higher than the sales figures Sea Isle had in 2019 at the same time of year. In 2019, 37,159 seasonal tags had been sold up to this point for total revenue of $743,180.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 vaccines and Gov. Phil Murphy’s easing of pandemic-related crowd restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings statewide, Sea Isle and other Jersey Shore communities appear poised for a strong summer tourism season.
Realtors are reporting that there is extraordinarily high demand for rental properties – driven in part by the feeling that the shore is a safe haven for vacations during the pandemic.
“There’s strong demand, no question about it,” Carol Hopely Russo, who heads the Sea Isle office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors, said in an earlier interview.
Christopher Glancey, whose Shorebreak Resorts company rents out 33 upscale condominiums in Sea Isle, agreed that the shore is regarded as “a safe choice” for vacations during the pandemic, which is helping to boost business.
“Rentals are very strong,” Glancey said of his company’s bookings.
Year after year, beach tag sales are considered another key indicator of the strength of the summer tourism season.
In Sea Isle’s case, the all-time record was set in 2015 with $1,471,321 in beach tag revenue. That figure included sales through the entire summer of seasonal, weekly and daily beach tags.
Beach tags are required in Sea Isle from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The cost is $5 for daily tags, $10 for weekly badges and $25 for seasonal tags.
However, beachgoers have until this Saturday to buy their seasonal tags at the discounted preseason rate of $20, a $5 savings over the normal price.
Revenue generated by beach tags is an important source of funding for the city. It covers the cost of keeping the beaches clean, collecting the trash, employing lifeguards and hiring summer police officers. It also helps to pay for Sea Isle’s share of beach replenishment projects in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
With beach tag revenue absorbing the cost, local taxpayers are saved from having to pay for all of those expenses, Doll said.
Beach tags are on sale seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sea Isle City Welcome Center, 300 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Due to the pandemic, the Welcome Center lobby is closed to the public. However, beach tags can be purchased through the walk-up window next to the Welcome Center’s front doors.
Beach Tags can also be purchased 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a beach tag vending machine in the lobby of City Hall, 233 JFK Boulevard. The vending machine accepts cash only and does not give change.
Another option for buying beach tags is the Viply mobile app. The Viply web link at www.viplypass.com/sea-isle-city/ explains how to use the app.