The first wave of American coronavirus almost wiped out the summer on Cape Cod, one of the most popular summer destinations in the United States. Now there is talk of a second wave: will this endanger the escape of the vacation spot?
When the pandemic hit the United States in March, Sarah Sherman, owner of Hopper Real Estate in Eastham ̵
At one point, he got over 16 reservations in just two days, an unheard of number in a typical year.
“It definitely looks like summer,” he says.
The return of visitors was a great relief for Sherman and entrepreneurs like her through Cape Cod, a peninsula protruding from Massachusetts into the Atlantic Ocean that has been made famous as the Kennedy summer playground.
Cold and gray in winter, it depends economically on the summer months, when its population doubles and families from all over the northeast flock to sunbathe, pedal and gorge on fried lobsters and clams.
As the country went into lockdown, reservations “just stopped,” he recalls. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen?'”
“We didn’t know if there would be a summer.”
The worst case scenario did not materialize.
Families with second homes de-camped for longer stays at the beginning of the year than usual. Renters soon followed, as a long spring in bulk created a pent-up demand, particularly for places like the Cape, to which most visitors travel by car.
By the holiday weekend of July 4 – typically one of the busiest of the year – hotel occupancy rates were above 90%.
But as the number of cases increases in other parts of the country, Sherman says it is too early to tell if the area’s economy has fled.
“As we watch the rest of the country popping up, we’re like, ‘If this happens here, it could close the rest of our summer very quickly.'”
Stalls for consumer spending
Ms Sherman’s concerns are widely shared.
Economists have warned that consumer spending in the United States appears to have stalled, even in places like Massachusetts, which have escaped a sharp increase in cases so far.
Spending has flattened across the country since the July 4 holidays and has been dropping more than 6% since January, according to data from a team of researchers from Harvard University, who found that the retreat was led by wealthy families and has led to a significant loss of jobs in the neighborhood businesses that satisfy such customers.
- US retail sales with record monthly rebound
- US businesses created 4.8 million jobs in June
For a place like the Cape, which is based on tourist dollars, the economic impact is likely to be significant, says Karen Dynan, a senior member of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Wealthier families are more likely to have been spared work and income cuts, which could help rebound expenses when people feel safe again. But it’s unclear how many companies will be able to survive until then, he says.
“We are just starting to see long-term damage to the economy,” he says.
‘Not so busy’
Many restaurants and other stores offer a discount of 20% or more, as visitors buy and dine less.
At Dennis’ Scargo Cafe, takeaway and outdoor tables have helped keep business, but with a nearby cinema and theater closed, co-owner David Troutman says it’s nothing like a typical summer, when people get ready three deep into the bar and wait an hour to be seated.
Many of its 73 employees work part-time and have not hired additional seasonal help.
“Whether it’s a good economy or a bad economy or a pandemic, [second-home owners] It will come down here, no matter what, “he says.” But people are no doubt afraid to enter the building … It is certainly not so busy. “
The subdued tone is particularly evident in Provincetown, a small town on the tip of the Cape whose art galleries and restaurants are typically full of visitors.
Mike Carroll, owner of the Schoolhouse Gallery, claims to have reduced public hours and reduced his staff from three to one, choosing to manage most things on his own.
“It’s really nice to have a list of things to do every day because the news isn’t good,” he says. “Our visitor population will decrease, business will certainly decrease and the seasonal aspect will certainly make it more acute.”
This is what Cape Cod vacationer Zoe Fishman has long feared.
Although his family retired to his second home in Cape Cape almost every weekend since March – much earlier than usual – activities have been largely limited to the beach and time by the pool by his grandparents. And you know it will take a long time.
“There are certainly important changes in the way we spend,” says the pediatrician, who called his economic vision “dismal”.
“I hope it will be the summer of many new restaurants next summer. I hope we will see a new kind of economy,” he says. “But I think what we are likely to see next summer are many empty seats.”