Cape Cod officials say hotels are filling up for September

Officials are expecting a busy Labor Day weekend.

A field of brilliant yellow sedum form a carpet in front of the Highland Light Lighthouse on the Cape Cod National Seashore.
The Highland Light on the Cape Cod National Seashore. –John Tlumacki / Globe staff

Hotels on Cape Cod are “well booked” for the first half of September as the region gears up for a busy Labor Day weekend, Cape officials said during a press conference on Thursday.

“We’ve heard that the first two weeks of this month, September, are well booked — weekends especially,” said Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, during a Cape Cod Reopening Task Force press conference. “And that the third week is starting to fill up.”

Northcross said changes to the upcoming school year due to the coronavirus pandemic are influencing September travel.

“We’re attributing some of that to the new patterns of school where students don’t have to be in classrooms the entire time and sports teams are not in play so that the kids are more free to travel with their parents,” Northcross said.

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Bookings on the Cape through Aug. 15 are “exceeding expectations,” though not meeting last year’s numbers, Northcross said. For the week ending Aug. 15, the weekday occupancy was down 15 percent and the weekend occupancy was down “only” 12 percent compared with the same time last year, she said. The Cape’s weekend occupancy was at almost 88 percent for mid-August, she said, which is the Cape’s “peak, peak season.”

On Monday, the chamber launched a regional “second summer” fall marketing campaign that will run through mid-October in an effort to get visitors to extend summer travel into September and October, Northcross said.

“Potential visitors are going to be encouraged to take advantage of our warm temperatures, our beautiful beaches, the fresh seafood,” Northcross said. “And there will be a lot of emphasis on outdoor adventures, including hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, kayaking. All the things that we’ve been doing successfully all summer remain very popular into the fall.”

Northcross called leisure travel “a godsend and a gift” for the Cape this summer, since it was the bulk of their business. She’s hoping the campaign will “nudge more leisure travel” this fall, during a time typically full of group travel in the way of corporate meetings, weddings, and other special events, which haven’t really been happening because of the global health crisis.

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The campaign will target people who live within a day’s drive from Cape Cod, Northcross said, and highlight the area’s good weather, outdoor assets, and the fact that people are more apt to choose a vacation destination within driving distance right now, she said.

“Certainly this summer has been unconventional in a lot of ways,” said State Senator Julian Cyr, who represents Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. “But there’s good reason to think that we’ll continue to see, as our [COVID-19] cases remain low and the weather holds out, we’ll continue to see visitors through early autumn.”

Northcross said some seasonal Cape businesses will remain open longer this year to take advantage of the Cape’s “second summer.”

“I did hear yesterday from a restaurant that’s been in business for over 65 years and typically closes after Labor Day,” Northcross said. “They are striving to stay open until November.”

“Going into the Labor Day weekend, we want to make sure that the public remains vigilant,” Cyr said. “Following those big four rules: washing hands and surfaces frequently, keeping social distance, isolating if you are having symptoms or are feeling ill, and, of course, wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth when distancing isn’t possible.”

When making plans on the Cape this weekend, try to remain outside as much as possible, Cyr said.

“We know that it is much more difficult to transmit COVID-19 outdoors than it is indoors,” he said. “It looks like we’re on tap to have a beautiful weekend, so folks should want to be outside anyway.”

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For more information about the Cape this season, visitors can go to ReopeningCapeCod.org, a resource created by the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force for residents and visitors.

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