By Maddie Orton
Tourists pumped $43.4 billion into the state last year. That was the headline at the annual New Jersey Tourism Conference in Atlantic City.
It was mostly good news for the people behind the state’s travel destinations at this year’s conference.
“Visitations to New Jersey have increased for the sixth straight year, with visits increasing by 2.4 perce3nt. That’s fabulous news,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno shared with the crowd.
Founder and President of Tourism Economics Adam Sacks is an expert in the field brought in to do the numbers. He attributes the year’s win to wage and employment growth, consumer confidence and lower travel costs.
“If you look at it in terms of visits, it’s a pretty staggering number of 95 million visits to New Jersey last year including both domestic and international visits,” Sacks told attendees.
New Jersey Tourism Industry Association President Vicki Clark says consistent investment in local markets, in addition to marketing the state as a whole, is paying off. That’s meant bumps for non-shore counties like Cumberland and Passaic.
“It’s really exciting,” said Program Director of Hamilton Partnership for Paterson Robin Gold. “We have a great national park, it has a thriving downtown, great restaurants and we want everyone to come in and see what we see.”
Of course, the news wasn’t all good. Atlantic was the only county to see a dip in tourism industry sales.
“With the closure of the four casino properties a few years ago, of course visitorship has gone down in Atlantic City,” said Larry Sieg, director of marketing for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. “But I think one of the things that’s important to point out is that we’re actually starting to promote and get more of our non-gaming amenity information out there.”
Possible North Jersey casinos might loom large for some down here, but Sieg anticipates sales to pick back up.
“We have some great things coming online this summer, we’ve got new nightclubs coming on, we’ve got some great new attractions that are being built. Of course, we’re bringing our beach concerts back hopefully this year along with some other events that are going to take place,” said Sieg. “I think we’re going to start seeing a swing shortly in visitors coming back.”
Sacks projects annual state tourist visits to exceed 100 million by 2018, and the feel here is hopeful that he’s right.