By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Year after year, beach tag sales are closely watched by Ocean City officials because they serve as one of the key indicators of the strength of the summer tourism season.
Ocean City bounced back from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to rake in record revenue of $2,242,100 in preseason beach tag sales in 2021. The summer of 2021 ultimately turned out to be a blockbuster season.
Now, preseason beach tag sales for 2022 suggest that the city is primed for another banner summer. Preseason sales generated $2,229,600 in beach tag revenue, just short of the record figure in 2021, newly released figures show.
“Last year was a record year for preseason sales during the COVID rebound summer. So, the fact that we are right in the same ballpark is a really positive sign for this summer,” Frank Donato, the city’s chief financial officer, said in an interview Tuesday.
After the 2020 season dealing with COVID-19 crowd restrictions, temporary beach closures and the mask mandate, the record beach tag sales in 2021 highlighted the desire of vacationers to get back to the shore for summer visits.
Judging by the strong preseason beach tag figures for 2022, it appears tourists are making an early commitment to vacation in Ocean City this summer, Donato noted.
“It’s a good indicator of how people are looking to spend all of the summer or a large part of the summer here,” he said.
Donato explained that bouts of rainy weather in early May slowed down beach tag purchases at that time, but sales began to shoot up during the latter part of the month.
Preseason sales were in effect through May 31, the last day seasonal beach tags are sold for the discounted price of $20.
Altogether, 111,480 seasonal tags were sold for 2022 at the discounted rate. In 2021, the figure was 112,105, a record number.
Seasonal tags are now being sold at the regular price of $25 each. Ocean City also sells daily beach tags at $5 each and weekly tags at $10 apiece.
Beach tag revenue will continue to grow through Labor Day, the last day tags are required in Ocean City. Total revenue usually comes in at around $4 million annually. The city’s all-time high in beach tags sales was slightly over $4.2 million in 2021, Donato said.
Ocean City annually leads all New Jersey shore towns in beach tag sales because of its sheer size. The city’s 7-mile-long beachfront is much bigger than neighboring towns, allowing it to handle enormous summer crowds that can swell to about 150,000 people, compared to the year-round population of about 11,200.
Beach tag revenue covers the cost of keeping the beaches clean, employing lifeguards, hiring summer police officers and paying for the city’s share of beach replenishment projects in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.