NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — It looks like it could be a strong summer for tourism in New York and New Jersey.

A combination of slowly dropping gas prices and an assumption that the economy can only get better, is leaving many business owners and officials feeling optimistic about the summer season.

WCBS 880’s Long Island bureau chief Mike Xirinachs reports: Having Fun In The Hamptons

There’s no better place to kick off the summer than in the Hamptons, where the population is expected to triple between June and August.

“If there’s a nicer place to spend the summer than eastern Long Island, I can’t find it,” said Vincent Sweeney.

EXTRA: New Yorkers’ Getaway Guide To The Hamptons

Sweeney and his friend Scott Collins have summer homes in the land fun and fame. They’re in the Hamptons every weekend but only if Mother Nature cooperates. Business owners say the rely on good weather for the success of their summer sales.

Officials are dreading a repeat of last year, when a prolonged stretch of cool and wet weather kept crowds away from bays and beaches along the coast, and discouraged people from taking day trips.

If you do plan on going to the Hamptons this summer, you could be sitting on one of the best beaches in the country. Main Beach in East Hampton was just ranked number 4 in a study of America’s best beaches.

The study ranks beaches on 50 criteria, including the look and feel of the sand, water quality, weather, facilities and crowds.

In New Jersey, Jersey Shore realtors are reporting stable to slightly higher interest in rental homes so far this year.

“The (tourism) industry tells us vacationers will be staying closer to home this summer, which is wonderful news for New Jersey,” said Grace Hanlon, executive director of the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism. “Over 91 million people live within a 4-hour drive of New Jersey, so I think we’re going to have a great summer, a really strong summer.”

Tourism is a $35.5 billion industry in New Jersey, with one in every 10 jobs in the state being connected to tourism. Roughly 67 million people visited New Jersey last year, and Hanlon says the tourism industry contributes about $7.2 billion a year in tax revenue to the state’s coffers.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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