Tourism is the third-largest industry in New Jersey, and it is on the rise, with $38 billion in revenue in 2011. This represents a seven percent increase from 2010, but it is still not at the level of 2007. Tourism brought in $39.5 billion that year, the highest amount in New Jersey history. The total number of visitors to the state increased eighteen percent over 2010, to eighty million in 2011. In a speech on March 15 to the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association in Atlantic City, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno expressed optimism that tourism will continue to grow and bring additional revenues to the state.
According to state officials, the warm winter brought people to the Jersey Shore out of season, and this may continue to bring heightened levels of tourism into the summer. Tourism remained high even with the mandatory evacuation of the Shore before Labor Day in preparation for Hurricane Irene.
When Guadagno took office two years ago, she announced that the state would cut over $2 million in funds for the promotion of tourism. Last week, she said the state will put $2.7 million towards a campaign to market the state as a vacation destination in the spring and summer. The state will also offer a greater role for the tourism industry in planning major future events. These events include Wrestlemania and the 2014 Super Bowl, which will be played at East Rutherford’s Meadowlands.
A report from an economist, Joel Naroff, presented at the same conference offers support for the lieutenant governor’s optimism. According to the Press of Atlantic City, Naroff gave a keynote speech saying that “all signs point to a good summer.” Despite the possibility of gas prices reaching $4 per gallon in the summer months, Naroff predicted that recent good economic news will lead people to do more discretionary spending this summer. This includes vacations.
Other economic indicators in the state are not as bright, Naroff noted. While unemployment is down nationwide, the housing market is still struggling and the public sector is still reducing its workforce. Consumer spending, however is rising.
Another report released on Thursday came from the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission, also known as the Hanson Commission. The Commission’s report detailed a lack of communication and organization between the north part of the state, which will host Wrestlemania and the Super Bowl, and the rest of the state. The state also does not have sufficient resources and leadership infrastructure to be competitive nationally as a tourist destination.