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Cape Hotels Were Almost Fully Booked Over July 4th Weekend, As Travel Starts To Rebound In State

Tourists walk down Commercial Street in Provincetown. The Trump administration announced last month that it was extending a ban on green cards and adding many temporary visas to the freeze, including J-1 cultural exchange visas and H-2B visas, impacting foreign workers there. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Tourists walk down Commercial Street in Provincetown. The Trump administration announced last month that it was extending a ban on green cards and adding many temporary visas to the freeze, including J-1 cultural exchange visas and H-2B visas, impacting foreign workers there. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Despite the pandemic, hotels on Cape Cod were almost fully booked July 4th weekend, according to data from the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. It's a sign that summer travel is returning to the region, however slowly.

Before the holiday weekend, hotel occupancy was down 48% the last week of June (Sunday through Thursday) compared to the same period last year. But by the time Independence Day rolled around on Friday and Saturday, hotel occupancy had jumped to 89%.

That's still 5% lower than the same period last year. But Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said the numbers are strong, especially given the pandemic.

"This data shows us that people are willing to travel," Northcross said. "They're willing to come to Cape Cod. They're not necessarily price sensitive, but they'll take a bargain if it's offered to them. And we're hoping that they'll come back because there's plenty of summer left."

Some hotels offered discounts to entice travelers, though Northcross said many luxury resorts were able to get bookings without lowering their prices. The average weekday hotel rate for the week of June 28 was about $153 — roughly 37% lower than the same period last year — while the average weekend rate was about $250, about 14% lower than the same time last year.

July 4th always brings big business for Cape Cod, but, as Northcross put it, "one weekend does not a summer make." While the lodging data does offer a bright spot for the Cape's hard hit tourism industry, she's still waiting for more numbers to get a full picture of how tourism is shaping up during the pandemic summer.

The lodging data does not include short-term rentals like Airbnb, which, Northcross said, tend to be booked for longer stays than hotels.

"This data shows us that people are willing to travel... And we're hoping that they'll come back because there's plenty of summer left."

Wendy Northcross, CEO, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

Vehicle travel over the Sagamore and Bourne bridges is another way to gauge how many visitors are going to the Cape. There's no data for July yet, but the latest traffic data on vehicle crossings over those bridges show a steady increase since the end of March, and in recent weeks saw traffic volume rebounding close to last year's levels.

Air travel is also rebounding in the state. Last week, there were more than 89,000 travelers at Boston Logan Airport — compared to a low of around 9,100 travelers in mid-April.

But air travel is still far below last year's levels. While more people are traveling now compared to when coronavirus cases were surging in the state, the number of airport passengers fell by 81% July 6-12 compared to the same period last year.

The latest data from Massport also show travel volume is still lower than it was in February, when the pandemic began to affect international and corporate travel. Travel fell to its lowest point during the pandemic in mid-April, when it plunged 98%.

Since then, air travel has slowly ticked back up as the state has moved through various phases of reopening.


Clarification: An earlier version of this post misattributed data provided by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce to another organization. The post has been updated.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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