For the Garden State, tourism is a driving force of its economy. With the state’s 130 miles of pristine beaches, historic landmarks, vast arts and cultural opportunities, casino gaming, mountains, lakes, parks, and other inviting sites, New Jersey has something for every traveler seeking a prime vacation destination.
In 2016 alone, New Jersey brought in $41.9 billion in direct tourism industry sales. Tourism also generated $38.2 billion of state gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, representing 6.5 percent of the entire state economy. Tourism celebrates the beauty of our state by sharing it with visitors. Too often, the tourism industry critical impact on New Jersey’s economy goes unacknowledged.
Who New Jersey Tourism Affects
From hotel clerks to bartenders, from amusement parks to national parks, New Jersey’s tourism industry directly employs more than 320,000 people. That means 1 in 10 Garden State residents have jobs because of our growing tourism industry!
That number grows to more than 517,000 when you look deeper and include New Jerseyans supporting the tourism industry in areas such as food and beverage supply, transportation administration, resort development and others.
Tourism drives an immense amount of tax revenue for our state. In 2016, tourism activity accounted for $10.5 billion in tax and assessment income. These dollars are building our schools, fixing our roads and improving our quality of life.
Currently, the average property tax in New Jersey is $8,477, which is the highest in the country. If the tourism industry ceased to exist, average property taxes would increase to $10,002 per household. This surge in household taxes, however, can be avoided with the proper funding and aid to the New Jersey tourism industry.
While many key traveler trends such as overall hotel room revenue and recreation industry sales have steadily improved over the past few years, it’s vital to the health of New Jersey’s economy to continue these upward trends. Increased tourism funding will aid in finding new and innovative ways to advertise, particularly to international markets. It’s been proven time and time again that money used to promote travel yields astonishing results. We must ensure the proper budget is allocated toward supporting New Jersey tourism.
New Jersey tourism funding also supports historic preservation of landmarks, parks, and sites, as well as replenishing beaches. We also need to ensure traveling to New Jersey is as easy as possible. For tourism to grow in New Jersey, we need to have the means to accommodate the millions of travelers who choose New Jersey as their vacation destination, using funding to support travel infrastructure like airports and roads.
New Jersey Tourism and the Gubernatorial Election
During this election cycle, it’s imperative to bring awareness of the importance of tourism to the economy of New Jersey. Both voters and candidates must understand the challenges facing our industry, including extreme shortage of funding, placing New Jersey tourism at a competitive disadvantage. It’s also important to understand potential cuts to current funding and what that would do to state tourism revenues. New Jersey must continue to nurture this industry, so it may continue to return a positive impact on employment, tax revenues, and the many New Jersey residents who rely on it for their livelihood.
How to Help
New Jersey Tourism Industry Association (NJTIA) and New Jersey Destination Marketing Organizations (NJDMO) have joined forces to advocate for, and lend support to, the New Jersey tourism industry. The goal is highlight the importance of this industry as a powerful economic engine for New Jersey and advocate to our elected officials for increased tourism funding.
Projections shows that in 2020, 108 million tourists will visit New Jersey and account for $49 billion in direct sales. Let’s make it happen. Join the movement here to ensure we receive the funding we need and reach out to gubernatorial candidates and legislators: http://njtia.org/tourism-and-you/.
Vicki Clark is the president of New Jersey Tourism Industry Association (NJTIA). She is also the president of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held since 2004. Previously, she was the marketing and membership director of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce.