South Jersey hopes for economic boost from Pope visit
The Philadelphia region will be swamped later this month when Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States, and nearby South Jersey is hoping to cash in on the eventful weekend.
Hotel rooms in a reasonable radius from downtown Camden are booking fast, but there is still availability, according to Joe Simonetta of the New Jersey Hotel & Lodging Association.
Whether hotels sell out or not, Simonetta said the Pope's visit is definitely causing a boost for the industry when business is usually lackluster.
"It is certainly a good time considering it's what we call the shoulder season for the area," he said.
A simple online search shows room prices are significantly higher during the last weekend of September when compared to surrounding weekends.
Simonetta said some establishments are requiring three to four minimum night stays instead of jacking rates.
Beyond the hotel industry, other southern businesses don't have a concrete way to predict how active they will be as Pope Francis rounds out his Apostolic Journey.
Kristi Howell, head of the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said everyone is preparing for an influx of customers, but no one knows what to expect until the weekend arrives.
"We're hearing that restaurants are telling employees they can't have off over that weekend," Howell said.
It's anticipated that as the Pope's visit inches closer, local businesses will roll out promotions to attract visitors.
Laurel Lanes in Mount Laurel is already on the move to get a piece of the economic action. The bowling alley is providing local hotels and transportation companies with "buy one-get one" coupons to be distributed, and the promotion is only good for Sept. 26 and 27.