By Erin Delmore
Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City is a tourist destination all its own, but today it’s a destination for tourism industry reps and business owners. They gathered today for an annual conference amid some good news — tourism in New Jersey is at a record high, bringing billions of dollars into the Garden State.
“Tourism is a $44.1 billion industry now. We’re up 2.9 percent over last year. We’ve had our seventh year of continuous growth, in terms of tourism. We also employ over half a million folks throughout the state — 517,000 plus — and we’re the sixth largest employer in the state. So it’s a really huge economic engine for New Jersey,” said Jake Buganski, acting executive director of the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.
2016 marks the best numbers yet for the tourism industry, including a 22 percent jump over 2010’s stats — after a few years marked by the global economic downturn and the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, right here at home.
According to a new report on the Economic Impact of Tourism in New Jersey, the industry directly supported some 320,000 jobs last year and sustained more than half a million altogether, nearly accounting for one out of every 10 jobs in the Garden State.
“Tourism actually extends beyond those core tourism industries, important to acknowledge the impact we have on banks, insurance companies and all of these other businesses in the communities where tourism is a large part of their economy,” Buganski said.
“You don’t just support yourselves, you don’t just support the local restaurants — you do that and you support local grocery stores, retailers,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Passaic and Mercer counties showed the greatest growth in tourism industry sales, year over year. As a whole, the tourism industry generated nearly $5 billion last year in state and local tax revenues.
“You know that power that gives you to go to Trenton and lobby for whatever project you all agree on? It gives you an incredible amount,” Guadagno said.
Guadagno congratulated industry reps and business owners at the New Jersey Conference on Tourism in Atlantic City and urged them to keep making their voices heard.
“When they get together and see that they have the power to go to Trenton and to exercise that economic engine that they represent, which is almost 7 percent of the GDP of the entire state of New Jersey, they will find that they are able to be supported greater in terms of the budget,” Guadagno said.
For Guadagno, the early morning visit with industry leaders is yet another launching pad in her run for governor.
“Next year I hope to be the governor, telling them thank you. Thank you for everything you do, for the 500,000 people they employ every year on season and off season and thank them for working so hard to make New Jersey a destination,” she said.