Businesses: Start your engines.
“Visitors appear to be shaking off any inflationary concerns and are still ready to spend money during their vacation. We hope this trend will continue heading into the upcoming 2023 summer,” reported Matt Pitta, Director of Communication at The Davenport Companies, which owns Blue Rock Golf Course in South Yarmouth. “Tourists are looking for a full experiential vacation on Cape Cod that includes spending time on the beach, eating out at local restaurants and enjoying the region’s recreational opportunities.”
Area chambers of commerce are reporting high levels of interest via advance lodging bookings and travel information for the 2023 summer tourist season.
“The tourism outlook for this summer season is strong based on advance bookings and visits to our website and digital travel guide, both of which have increased traffic over last year which was a record year,” said Paul Niedziewicki, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
Other chamber leaders echo his outlook.
“We are looking for a robust summer based upon the number of calls and emails we have received over the past few weeks,” said Marty Bruemmel, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
“Indications are that this will be a good season,” echoed Marie Oliva, Executive Director of the Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, which manages the Cape Cod Canal Region Visitor Centers, located at the base of the Sagamore Bridge, and a location at 70 Main St., Buzzards Bay.
Housing remains issue for seasonal employees
However, labor shortages, fueled by a lack of short-term, affordable housing, continues to plague businesses’ efforts to serve the influx of visitors. Businesses have relied on programs that bring foreign students to the U.S. to help with the perennial staffing shortages. The Cape now imports almost 50 percent of its summer workforce from abroad. In 2017, about 25 percent of the workforce came from outside the U.S.
“This is due to the crisis-level housing predicament on Cape Cod. In 2018, the median price of a single-family home was $380,000; it is now $660,000,” noted Niedziewicki. “Additionally, 86 percent of the land on Cape Cod is either developed or protected and 82 percent of our housing stock consists of single-family homes.”
Some 37 percent of the housing stock on the Cape are second or third homes, with over 18,000 units being used as short-term rentals. WeNeedAVacation.com, a website that lists short-term Cape Cod rentals by owners, lists more than 4,000 homes.
“Members continue to have concerns over being able to achieve required staffing levels accompanied with housing of those seasonal staff hires,” agreed Bruemmel.
Niedzewicki added that what makes the situation more difficult than in years past is twofold.
“The seasonal workforce is incredibly reliant on H2b and J-1 visa holders. In 2018, we had 5,000 J-1 workers employed as part of our seasonal economy. There are only 100,000 J-1 summer work travel visas available nationwide. We’ve only rebounded to 2,100 or so J-1 visas post-COVID 19 because sponsoring agencies are now requiring employers to provide housing. That leaves what could be a permanent 3,000-person hole in our seasonal workforce.”
Visitors not driving themselves to Cape Cod this summer can take advantage of public transit, including Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company’s (P&B) frequent buses and the restart of the CapeFlyer rail service between Boston and Hyannis.
“Plymouth & Brockton Bus Company provides the most transportation options between Cape Cod and Downtown Boston and Logan Airport,” said John Cogliano, President of Plymouth & Brockton. “We will have 24 daily round trips between Hyannis and Downtown Boston and Logan Airport. In addition, we have six daily round trips of bus service between Woods Hole and Downtown Boston and Logan Airport and expect to increase more daily Woods Hole bus service for the summer months.”
P&B recently started up two daily trips between Hyannis and Provincetown.
The CapeFLYER train service, operated by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority between Boston and Hyannis, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary season starting Memorial Day and offering a $10 round-trip ticket for the month of June to commemorate.
Additional trains will be Memorial Day, Juneteenth, an expanded schedule for the July Fourth weekend and Labor Day.
“The Cape Cod RTA is adding early morning and late-night [bus] service in Provincetown,” said Kathy Jensen of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA). “On Memorial Day weekend we will introduce our app-based, ride-hail SmartDART service in Falmouth to serve the section south of 28 from Falmouth Heights beach to Menauhant Beach.
CCRTA’s Whoosh (Falmouth) and Hyannis trolleys also offer visitors hop-on, hop-off access to attractions between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The CCRTA has made a commitment to a future fleet of electric vehicles. On June 3, CCRTA will be hosting the Recharge Cape Cod EV Test Drive Event at Hyannis Transportation Center. This event is meant to educate the public on electric vehicles and provide an opportunity to test drive one. An electric bus and electric bicycles will also be represented.