By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Beach tag sales declined slightly in Sea Isle City this summer despite what was considered a bustling tourism season overall.
Year after year, beach tag revenue is a closely watched economic indicator of the strength of the vacation season at the shore.
Jennifer McIver, Sea Isle’s chief financial officer, estimated that beach tag sales for 2022 through September came in at $1,316,440, compared to $1,347,880 for the same period last year. Figures for 2022 are not yet official.
McIver, though, stressed that Sea Isle enjoyed a strong summer tourism season overall.
“Definitely, the beaches were packed,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
She believes that Sea Isle’s difficulty in hiring beach tag inspectors may have depressed revenue somewhat this summer.
“We’re running a little under last year because we didn’t have as many walkers on the beaches,” she said of the shortage of beach tag inspectors.
Sea Isle and other New Jersey shore communities struggled to fill some of their positions this summer while competing with higher-paying jobs offered by private companies and also contending with a workforce shortage overall.
Shore communities also faced the challenge of attracting vacationers during a summer that included record-high gas prices that climbed above $5 per gallon in June and inflation hitting a new 40-year high.
McIver wasn’t sure whether high gas prices and inflation cut into Sea Isle’s beach tag revenue, but acknowledged it was certainly possible.
Even before this summer began, Sea Isle had the difficult challenge of matching or exceeding 2021’s blockbuster results. After the 2020 season dealing with COVID-19 crowd restrictions, temporary beach closures and the mask mandate, vacationers returned to the shore in droves in the summer of 2021.
“Coming off a COVID recovery year, you’re not going to be the same,” McIver said of 2022’s revenue not being quite as strong as 2021.
Sea Isle’s all-time record for beach tags sales was set in 2015 with $1,471,321 in revenue.
Beach tags are required from Memorial Day to Labor Day. However, the city continues to generate revenue in the off-season months through the sale of special, holiday-themed beach tags during the Christmas shopping season.
Sea Isle will begin selling holiday beach tags online this year for the first time ever. Online credit card sales will give people another option for buying their beach tags – in addition to in-person sales with cash or personal checks.
McIver said she is hopeful that online sales will help the city make up for the slight decline in summer beach tag revenue this year.
Revenue generated by beach tag sales 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. The revenue also helps to pay for the city’s beach replenishment projects.