Sea Isle City is polishing its publicity and marketing campaign in hopes of a big summer tourism season.

By Donald Wittkowski

Sea Isle City officials are hoping that it will take only 30 seconds to persuade tourists to spend their summer vacations in the beach town.

The city’s Tourism Commission previewed a new 30-second commercial Thursday that is one of the centerpieces of a family-friendly advertising campaign featuring the slogan, “The Forecast is Fun in Sea Isle City.”

Launched March 1, the ad shows a young family frolicking in the ocean, beachcombing, crabbing, doing yoga under a full moon and savoring some of the city’s family-style entertainment.

Mickey Coskey, owner of Seven Mile Publishing, the marketing consultant for the Tourism Commission, said she believes a 30-second commercial is ideal for catching the public’s attention.

“They really recommend shorter commercials because people have a short attention span,” Coskey told the Tourism Commission’s board members at their meeting.

The online ad will be featured on Sea Isle’s tourism website at, the city’s Facebook page, YouTube and, Coskey said.

It is part of a $100,000 marketing and publicity campaign for 2017 announced by the Tourism Commission in January. Different elements of the campaign are being rolled out leading up to the spring and summer tourism season.

The campaign blends more traditional forms of advertising such as billboards, print media and visitor guides with a digital marketing strategy that recognizes the big, upward trend in mobile communications.

On a typical summer weekend, about 50,000 to 60,000 visitors will pour into Sea Isle City, a barrier island with a year-round population of 2,100. During peak summer holiday weekends, such as the Fourth of July, the number of tourists will balloon to 65,000 to 75,000, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.

James Bennett, chairman of the Tourism Commission, and marketing consultant Mickey Coskey preview a new 30-second commercial showcasing Sea Isle.
James Bennett, chairman of the Tourism Commission, and marketing consultant Mickey Coskey preview a new 30-second commercial showcasing Sea Isle.

Sea Isle got a taste of summer-like activity in February, of all times, during its wildly popular annual Polar Bear Weekend festivities. An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 visitors came to town Feb. 17-19 for a weekend of partying, dining and shopping. The main event was the Polar Bear Plunge, a dive into the nippy surf by thousands of people clad in costumes and bathing suits.

Coskey noted that the popularity of Polar Bear Weekend was reflected in the surge of hits on the city’s tourism website. Web traffic was up 36 percent from Jan. 1 to March 15 compared to the same period in 2016. On Feb. 18, the Saturday that the Polar Bear Plunge was held, there was a 60 percent jump in the number of web visitors using their mobile devices, she said.

In 2016, 57.3 percent of the people who visited Sea Isle’s website used their mobile devices to do so. That compared with 30 percent of the web visitors using their desktop computers and 12.1 percent using their tablets. The number of web visitors using mobile devices in 2016 jumped 10 percent compared to 2015 and 23 percent over 2014, according to Coskey.

Overall, Sea Isle’s tourism website had 264,496 hits and 173,689 individual visitors in 2016, both big gains over the figures in 2015 and 2014. In just two years, website traffic has more than doubled in both categories, Coskey said.

While web advertising and social media are important ways to showcase Sea Isle, the 2017 publicity campaign also includes promoting the town at travel shows, said Diane Merson, the city’s tourism representative.

“We’re getting a lot of questions asked about Sea Isle. People are very interested,” Merson told the Tourism Commission.

Merson said the city has updated its website with the 2017 lineup of festivals, parades, concerts and other special events. Those events will also be listed in the city’s updated travel brochure, which will be distributed on Friday.

“I think we’re doing a really good job of promoting,” Merson said.

Sea Isle is competing with other beach resorts along the Jersey Shore to attract both U.S. and foreign tourists. The marketing campaign is the heart of Sea Isle’s strategy to distinguish itself from its rivals.

James Bennett, chairman of the Tourism Commission, asked Merson about the prospects of attracting Canadian tourists this summer.

Canada’s currency is exchanging at a low rate compared to the U.S. dollar, which could make it challenging to lure tourists across the border, Bennett pointed out.

Sea Isle City Council President William Kehner, who sits on the Tourism Commission, also noted that a downturn in Canada’s economy has cut into vacations to the United States.

Merson said the number of Canadian tourists coming to Cape May County has slipped “a little bit.”

“We certainly don’t want to lose that segment of tourism,” Bennett responded.

Canadian visitors have long been a stable of Cape May County tourism, particularly in Wildwood. Merson said the Cape May County Department of Tourism has been putting together package deals as an incentive for Canadian vacationers.

“Visitors are going to come,” she said.