By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City tourism officials should send a great, big “Thank you” card to Mother Nature.
As they begin to roll out their marketing strategy for the 2020 vacation season, members of the Sea Isle City Tourism Commission said they hope to keep the momentum going from what was truly a blockbuster summer in 2019.
“We had a great year in 2019,” Mickey Coskey, the tourism commission’s marketing consultant, told the board members Thursday during their first meeting of the new year.
The principal reason for the bustling 2019 tourism season was the sun-soaked weather from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, officials said.
“Weather is everything,” said Coskey, owner of the advertising, marketing and publishing firm Seven Mile Publishing & Creative.
Echoing Coskey’s sentiments, tourism commission chairman James Bennett said good weather is crucial for attracting the summer crowds that drive Sea Isle’s tourist-dependent economy.
“They’re moving around. They’re traveling,” Bennett, a businessman who operates the LaCosta Lounge and Oar House Pub in Sea Isle, said of tourists enjoying nice weather.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who was at the meeting Thursday to swear in the board members for a new term, gave a pep talk that highlighted the city’s successful tourism industry.
“More and more people are coming to Sea Isle City. More and more people are enjoying Sea Isle City,” he said.
Desiderio noted that the tourism commission, city officials and the local business owners represented by the Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization have collaborated in a communitywide effort to promote tourism.
“It’s great to be the mayor of a community that is working together,” he said.
With an eye on the upcoming summer season, Desiderio added, “It’s going to be positive moving forward. That helps everybody.”
In February, the tourism commission will unveil major parts of its $100,000 summer marketing program featuring the slogan “Reconnect in Sea Isle!” The campaign will encourage visitors to post photos and videos on the city’s Facebook page that highlight their vacations. The idea is for friends and family members to show how they are “reconnecting” in Sea Isle.
Overall, the marketing strategy will mix social media, internet videos and web commercials with a combination of more traditional types of tourism advertising, such as billboards, the city’s visitors guide and rack cards. The city will distribute 45,000 visitor guides, including 6,500 that will be mailed out to local property owners, Coskey said.
“We really try to get people excited about the summer,” she noted.
The tourism commission placed a billboard on the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia on Dec. 29 to serve as an early invitation for visitors to come to the shore.
“New Year’s Eve Resolution … Spend More Time In Sea Isle City,” the billboard proclaims amid a picture of a beachgoer lounging in a chair near the water’s edge while reading a book.
The tourism commission will ratchet up its summer marketing campaign in February by placing two more strategically located billboards on the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia.
Sea Isle’s three billboards that were located in Philadelphia for the 2019 marketing campaign were seen by nearly 11 million people traveling to and from the shore, Coskey said.
Beach tag sales, considered a key indicator of the strength of the summer season, also reflected Sea Isle’s big crowds in 2019. Through Labor Day, beach tag sales totaled $1,378,580, an increase of about $14,000 from 2018.
On a typical summer weekend, about 50,000 to 60,000 visitors will pour into Sea Isle, compared to the town’s year-round population of 2,100. During peak summer days, such as the Fourth of July, the number of tourists will balloon to 65,000 to 75,000, city officials say.
Coskey released figures Thursday showing that Sea Isle’s tourism website visitsicnj.com had significant gains in traffic in 2019, another sign of the successful summer season.
The number of visitors to the website jumped by 25 percent and the number of page views grew by nearly 20 percent.
Web traffic continues to underscore the importance of mobile communications in reaching vacationers, Coskey explained. Overall, 64 percent of the visitors used their cellphones to view Sea Isle’s tourism website in 2019. In comparison, 28 percent of the web visitors used their desktop computers and 8 percent used their tablets.
In 2019, women far outnumbered men in accessing the website, 56 percent to 44 percent, respectively. Those figures suggest that women are generally taking the lead role in planning summer vacations in Sea Isle.
“We’ve always believed and said that women are the decision-makers when it comes to vacations,” Coskey said.