Cape Cod’s summer season went ‘better than expected,’ officials say

It was "not as catastrophic" as officials feared.

Race Point Beach in Provincetown.
Race Point Beach in Provincetown. –Flickr / Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Cape Cod officials said summer on the Cape turned out better than expected given the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

State Senator Julian Cyr, who represents Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, predicted a muted season in the spring.

“Overall, there’s a sense among the task force that we did better than expected,” Cyr said during a Cape Cod Reopening Task Force press conference on Thursday. “Both from a community spread perspective and also from our ability to welcome people here. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been tremendous sacrifice and real hardship both from a health perspective and from a workforce and an economic perspective.”

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There were fewer seasonal visitors this summer, but traffic increased as the season progressed, Cyr said.

Traffic over the Bourne and Sagamore bridges was down 25 percent Memorial Day weekend compared with 2019, Cyr said, and down 17 percent on an average July weekend and 10 percent on an average August weekend compared with 2019. Labor Day weekend saw a 2 percent increase in bridge traffic compared to last year, he said.

Once on the Cape, people stayed longer than usual, according to Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

“This summer we saw people renting for much longer stays, at least a week,” Northcross said. “But more predominantly, we were seeing 30-day, 60-day, 90-day rentals.”

“There were less bookings, but more revenue because instead of staying for a week, they stayed for two,” said Ryan Castle, CEO of Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors. “We’re still seeing that into the fall, of people taking a month here or something like that.”

Many owners took their short-term rental properties off the market, Northcross said, because they either wanted to use the properties themselves or they didn’t want the liability risk should guests get sick.

The Cape saw a 15 percent decrease in hotel rentals and a 4 percent decrease in short-term rentals, Northcross said.

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“While we were down, we suffered the least losses of any other region in the state in terms of overnight occupancy transactions and we also were able to hold on to a strong room rate, which is good for our economy,” she said. “The average daily rate actually increased about 5 percent, so that’s good news.”

Cyr said the region’s health data indicates visitors largely took heed of the safety measures outlined by Gov. Charlie Baker.

“The health data indicates that we had broad compliance, and I would say that we had less cases and less community spread than I expected that we would have seen, just given the sheer number of people who were here and continue to be here,” Cyr said.

A Cape Cod Commission business impact survey showed that almost 90 percent of responding businesses reported reduced revenue in the first two quarters of the year compared with last year, Cyr said. In a second survey, some businesses said “where they thought they would be the first time they did the survey was a little better once they got further into the season,” Cyr said.

“I think it was a slower and harder season than we’ve had in quite some time, but not as catastrophic as I think we had predicted on the outset of the season,” Cyr said.

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