Created 18 March 2021
By Cape chambers of commerce
Many of the businesses in Cape May County depend on the Summer Work Travel (SWT) exchange programs and could not operate without them. We live in an area with a high percentage of seasonal businesses and the available American workforce in the area is not sufficient to provide all of the local businesses with the staff that they need during the busiest times. The SWT program helps the businesses in the community keep their doors open and serve more Americans during the peak tourist season.
As we come out of the pandemic and are given the thumbs up to increasingly open up our economies, we need to ensure that local businesses can operate to the capacity they are allowed in order to maximize the limited summer season. If Cape May County is going to be able to rebound, it will require businesses maintaining their full- time, year-round and seasonal employees. The Summer Work Travel programs help businesses supplement and diversify their workforce with a small, but critical, addition.
If repealing Presidential Proclamation 10052 is not made a priority now, and is extended past its current March 30 deadline, it will be detrimental for many of local businesses and the county’s tourism economy. As important as lifting this prohibition is prioritizing the issuance of visas for Summer Work Travel exchange visitors. If the State Department is not creative and insists on approaching this year with a “business as usual” attitude, our community economies will suffer as will the public diplomacy benefits of this 50-year-old program.
Studies are showing that as the COVID-19 vaccines become more widespread, people are becoming more comfortable with traveling.
Key findings from Expedia Group’s 2021 Travel Trends Report include: • Initiatives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will fuel travel industry recovery • Travelers will take more trips and extend their vacations • Consumer spending will be high in 2021 • Travel will serve as a force for good.
Our local population continues to play an important role in filling seasonal jobs, but it’s simply not enough. 97% of SWT host employers report having more seasonal jobs available than workers to fill them. The SWT students do not take jobs away from Americans, they simply fill the jobs that otherwise cannot be filled. For example, many businesses operate during the shoulder months of the peak tourist season when many American students aren’t available for seasonal work. Having the SWT students means that businesses in are able to stay open longer, sustain more year-round employment, and enable businesses to provide full-time jobs to Americans — jobs that would otherwise be in jeopardy if not for the program. And after the difficult year that local businesses and the tourism economy have just faced, and continue to face, this program is more critical than ever.
In addition, the international students contribute to the local economy when they shop, dine and live, and they bring a diversity to Cape May County that we would not otherwise achieve. Our residents and visitors love getting to know people from places they’ve only heard about, but never visited.
It has been proven that this program helps U.S. public diplomacy and businesses, many of them small and family operated, to fulfill short-term needs during peak tourist seasons. If Presidential Proclamation 10052 is extended past its current March 30 deadline, and if processing of the non-immigration visas for the program are not prioritized now, it will have devastating short- and long-term effects on local businesses, communities, tourism and travelers looking forward to visiting Cape May County this summer.
Commentary signed, for their memberships, by Vicki Clark, president, Cape May County Chamber of Commerce; Jim Ridgway, president, Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May; Tracey Boyle-DuFault, executive director, Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce; Lisa Fisher, president, Greater Woodbine Chamber of Commerce; Michele Gillian, executive director, Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce; Sue Paz-Cubberly, Lower Township Chamber of Commerce; Barbara Jones, president, Middle Township Chamber of Commerce; and Maggie Day, president, Stone Harbor Chamber of Commerce.