Sharks, twisters, taxes all take bites at Cape Cod busi­nesses

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Philip Marcelo

Be­tween great white sharks, freak tor­na­does and new taxes on va­ca­tion rentals, Cape Cod busi­nesses have had a chal­leng­ing sum­mer.

Lodg­ing and beach visit num­bers are down on the fa­mous va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion, one year af­ter the re­gion dealt with two shark at­tacks, in­clud­ing the state’s first fa­tal at­tack in more than 80 years. Beaches have been closed to swim­ming for shark sight­ings so fre­quently that some news out­lets have taken to keep­ing a run­ning tally (At least 90 times, by one count).

Of­fi­cials, who took mod­est steps to pre­pare for in­creased shark ac­tiv­ity ahead of this sea­son, are sigh­ing in re­lief that there hasn’t yet been a re­peat of last year’s at­tacks. But this sum­mer also threw a curve­ball in the form of three rare tor­na­does that touched down July 23.

While rel­a­tively weak and short-lived, the EF1 twisters ripped the roof off a ho­tel and knocked out power to tens of thou­sands of cus­tomers for al­most three days. State of­fi­cials es­ti­mate they caused $3.7 mil­lion in dam­age.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Cham­ber of Com­merce. “It rained ev­ery week­end in June. Then we had tor­na­does in July. But Au­gust has been much bet­ter. We’re look­ing for­ward to Septem­ber. It’s al­most like a sec­ond sum­mer.”

Northcross said she ex­pects Au­gust num­bers to show more of a re­turn to form for the re­gion, which pumps more than $1 bil­lion of tourism dol­lars into the state econ­omy. But fig­ures from the early sum­mer months haven’t been en­cour­ag­ing.

At­ten­dance at the fed­er­ally man­aged Cape Cod Na­tional Seashore beaches this June were down 10% com­pared with last June, ac­cord­ing to cham­ber sta­tis­tics.

Ho­tel oc­cu­pancy rates were down more than 3% in June and July, com­pared with the same months last year. And va­ca­tion prop­erty rentals, which vastly out­num­ber tra­di­tional ho­tel and mo­tel beds on the Cape, are also down about 2% from prior years, said Carla Hem­mings, a rental man­ager at Cape Cod Ocean­view Re­alty.

She and other prop­erty man­agers con­cede shark con­cerns have turned away some, but they ar­gue the ho­tel and lodg­ing taxes to which the rentals were sub­jected for the first time start­ing July 1 have taken a big­ger bite.

Northcross points out that traf­fic across the bridges lead­ing to the Cape av­er­aged about 3,500 more ve­hi­cles a day in July than they did last July, sug­gest­ing more day-trip­pers were ven­tur­ing out rather than longer-term va­ca­tion­ers. And while she didn’t yet have firm fig­ures, she said, restau­rants and re­tail shops re­ported brisk busi­ness in Au­gust.

Co­lette Cum­mings, owner of Ducks in the Win­dow, says tourist ac­tiv­ity along Chatham’s charm­ing Main Street has been no­tice­ably lighter this sum­mer, but that didn’t seem to hurt her quirky duck-themed shop.

“There def­i­nitely weren’t mul­ti­ple days of crazi­ness and en­ergy like years be­fore,” she said. “At the same time, we had very, very few mo­ments where did not have cus­tomers in the store. So I can’t say it was a bad sum­mer. Given the shark is­sue, taxes and tor­na­does, it could have been a lot worse.”

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, mean­while, are urg­ing beach­go­ers to re­main vig­i­lant. Last year’s fa­tal at­tack hap­pened in midSeptem­ber, weeks af­ter the tra­di­tional La­bor Day end of the sum­mer sea­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.