Study Finds Area Visitors Satisfied With Regional Experience

Jan 17, 2018

A recent study of visitors to the Long Beach Island region offered significant insight into who they are and where they are from, while also revealing there is no difference in visitors to Island communities and those on the mainland.

The study, conducted by Brian J. Tyrrell, Ph.D., professor of hospitality and tourism management studies for Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism, polled 300 people in person on Long Beach Island and the mainland and more than that online over a five-month period last year. Tyrrell presented the visitors profile to the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce during its annual State of the Chamber meeting last week at the Holiday Inn in Manahawkin.

“A quarter of the visitors came from outside the New York and Pennsylvania designated market areas,” he told nearly 100 members of the chamber. “That’s significant.”

The New York market, which encompasses New Jersey north of Ocean County through southeast Connecticut, and the Philadelphia market account for nearly three-quarters of the visitors to the Island and the mainland, according to Tyrrell. Remaining respondents came from as far away as Minneapolis, Little Rock and Miami as well as from Harrisburg, Wilkes Barre and Baltimore.

So, who are these people? Nearly half of them are the affluent mature, meaning they are 55 or older with a median income of $75,000 or higher, he said. The next largest group is the affluent family with 17 percent, according to Tyrrell. This group is between the ages of 35 and 54 and may have children under the age of 18, he said. They, too, have a median income of $75,000 or higher.

The study found there were slightly more affluent mature individuals visiting the mainland than the Island, and conversely there were slightly more-affluent families visiting the Island than the mainland.

“The affluent benefit from the tax bill so it might not be as bad as Joel thinks,” he said of an earlier presentation from economist Joel Naroff, who decried the recent federal tax cuts, saying it did no favors for resort areas like the LBI region, especially where real estate is concerned.

Of some interest is the 1 percent of visitors considered to be young and free, meaning they are ages 18 to 34 with no children and have any income level. Those visitors tend to be swayed by the night life, and that is in short supply, at the moment, on the Island, he said. Other areas such as Atlantic City and Seaside Heights see a larger number of the young and free, Tyrrell said.

About one-third of the respondents had heard of the planned water taxi that would run between the Tuckerton area and Beach Haven.

“That was pretty consistent,” he said, noting the difference came in the likelihood of using the service going to mainland respondents versus Island visitors. “The added benefit is for young workers to utilize the service. I suspect the demand will outrun the supply.”

The greatest opportunity for growth in the region, according to Tyrrell, is before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. The best way to do that, he said, is by extending the season with festivals and other activities.

“I had no trouble finding visitors at Chowderfest,” he said. “You have to give them a reason to come back.”

Although festivals can impact small businesses not participating in the event, Tyrrell said the days leading up to the festival or other event, and the days after should offset any concern.

Trends among region visitors include the use of social networking sites, which wasn’t surprising, he said. What was a little unexpected, though, was the number of visitors using virtual real estate services, like those of Airbnb.

“You don’t get traditional real estate services with virtual businesses,” he said, noting if a renter has any problem at a rental property, a call to the Realtor will fix it quickly. That service doesn’t necessarily exist with virtual businesses.

More than 85 percent of those questioned said they were very satisfied with their time in the LBI region, compared to 80 percent for the state overall. None of the respondents were very dissatisfied with their experience, while 1 percent of those asked about their experience in the state said they were.

“Those that did criticize (the area) did it constructively,” Tyrrell noted. “There is a feeling of ownership of the area.”

Words respondents used to identify their time in the area were: beautiful, friendly, clean, relaxing, activities and peaceful, according to the study.

Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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