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Cape Hopes For 'Second Summer' Tourism, As Businesses Continue To Face Challenges

Tourists walk along Commercial Street in Provincetown, an area where local officials ordered it mandatory to wear a mask in the business district due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Tourists walk along Commercial Street in Provincetown, an area where local officials ordered it mandatory to wear a mask in the business district due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Cape Cod officials hope travelers will extend their summer vacation plans and continue to visit the region this fall — and spend money there.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce rolled out a marketing campaign this week dubbed "Second Summer" in an effort to spur fall tourism, especially as many businesses have taken a hit this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said some businesses that typically close after Labor Day plan to remain open through October or November to capture more business. Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said visitors can still enjoy many attractions in the fall months.

"We always are hopeful that people will plan a non-peak vacation to the Cape," Northcross said Thursday. "Our best opportunity is to continue to talk to the population that lives within one day's drive of Cape Cod."

The "Second Summer" campaign is rolling out ahead of what's expected to be a busy Labor Day weekend, and as new preliminary data shows continued struggles for many businesses in the region.

According to a survey of 370 Cape Cod businesses, 52% said their revenue has fallen by half and 22% said their revenue has dropped by three-quarters. More than half of businesses are open in a limited capacity, while roughly 8% are completely closed — and many of those are unsure if they'll ever reopen.

Safety guidelines also present issues for many businesses. The survey found 66% of businesses said enforcing social distancing and mask requirements is a challenge, and 77% said the costs of increased cleaning and sanitation is impacting their business.

The survey, conducted by the Cape Cod Commission, is ongoing and final results are expected in the coming weeks. But, so far, officials see some positive signs from employers. About 35% of respondents said they could only operate for six months with their current cash flow and reserves — which is down from the 45% of respondents who said that in a similar survey in April.

Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori said there's been more optimism as businesses reopen.

"Obviously, some of the respondents are identifying that they've struggled to survive and that the winter will be a little bit more telling for some of these year-round businesses," Senatori said. "But overall, there was a feeling of support in the community."

Another bright spot for the Cape's economic outlook is hotel occupancy rates. Many hotels in the area were booked up in the middle of August — what's usually the peak part of the region's tourism season. Hotel occupancy was about 68% for the week of Aug. 9 and shot up to about 88% by that weekend, according to data from the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

The rates are still lower than they were the same time last year, but Northcross said this year's numbers were "really positive" given the pandemic. "Exceeding expectations, I guess is a good way to put it," she said.

The Cape saw hotels booked up earlier this summer, too, during the July 4 weekend. Northcross said there's also evidence that short-term rentals, like Airbnb, have been strong so far this year. She said most of the businesses that have struggled have been in the dining and retail sectors while short-term rentals, home sales and automobile and boat sales have done well.

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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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