Written by Claire Lowe Friday, March 21, 2014 02:46 pm
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Tourism revenue up statewide, down in Atlantic County
TRENTON – Cape May County was one of the counties leading the surge as New Jersey’s tourism industry set a new record in 2013, generating more than $40 billion.
Visitor spending, capital investment and general government support of tourism tallied a record of $40.4 billion, a 1.3 percent increase over 2012. Visitation in New Jersey also rose to 87.2 million in 2013, a 5.9 percent increase compared to 2012.
The latest figures were announced by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno at the 2014 New Jersey Conference on Tourism in Atlantic City.
“Today’s numbers reaffirm the incredible resilience shown by New Jersey’s tourism industry and the commitment of our visitors, who continue to demonstrate their support by vacationing at our great tourist destinations after Sandy,” Guadagno said. “The performance of our tourism industry is integral to the overall health of our state’s economy. To achieve this record progress is so encouraging for the future as New Jersey is well-positioned to build on this success entering the important spring and summer months.”
According to the Economic Impact of Tourism Report released Thursday, March 20 by the Department of State, “Growth in 2013 was centered in northern New Jersey. Ranked by growth, five of the top six counties are in the northern region of the state, led by Morris County.”
Cape May County had a modest bump at 2.3 percent.
Diane Wieland, Cape May County director of tourism, said that while Cape May County’s percent increase may have been lower than in other counties, its revenue increase was $125 million over 2012, the second highest in the state. Morris County had the highest revenue increase at $127 million.
Atlantic County was in the negative, down 3.2 percent.
“Excluding the decline in casino win and the loss of seasonal housing stock, the shore counties would have shown visitor spending growth in 2013,” the report states.
It says that Atlantic County visitor spending was dented due to a casino win decline of 6 percent in 2013.
According to the report, hotel demand was hurt by second home losses due to Hurricane Sandy, especially in Ocean, Monmouth and Atlantic counties.
Despite the decline, Cape May and Atlantic counties lead the state in tourism direct sales for 2013. Atlantic County had $7.319 billion in total tourism sales and Cape May County had $5.508 billion in sales. Ocean County was third with $4.191 billion in sales.
Tourism generated $35.9 billion of state GDP in 2013, or 7 percent of the entire state economy.
Wieland said the recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the New Jersey coastline in October 2012, worried the county’s tourism department.
“We were very concerned about the impact of Sandy,” she said. “We had the damage, as well as the perception that everything was damaged along the Jersey Shore.
“We were kind of battling two fronts,” she said.
Cape May County, however, was mostly spared from the devastation felt in the northern shore counties, especially Ocean.
A number of other contributing factors made 2013 seem like it would be a rough year for tourism.
“We took a huge hit in June,” Wieland said of the rainy month.
In addition, Easter came early in 2013 and spring wasn’t as warm as in other years. But things began looking up as summer rolled in, she said.
“What we saw, we cut our losses in July and then, from that point on, tourism in Cape May County exceeded 2012, which was a banner year,” Wieland said.
There remains a large inventory of hotel and motel rooms, bed and breakfasts and rental properties in Cape May County, Wieland said. She said that rentals across the county are up. In fact, at the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday, Realtor Gary Jessel announced that Ocean City rentals were up more than 20 percent over 2012.
“If rentals do well, restaurants do well, attractions will do well,” Wieland said.
She said that the cold and snow-filled winter has put a focus on summer vacations.
“I think we’re going to do well in 2014,” she said.
Using travel shows as a benchmark, Wieland said she has run out of information packets during recent trips to Canada.
“The response has been very good,” she said. “Canadians are definitely interested in coming back.”
The report states that New Jersey’s travel and tourism industry directly supports 320,238 jobs, a slight increase over 2012 (.526 percent). When combined with indirect and induced jobs, total travel and tourism related jobs exceed 500,000, or 10 percent of all statewide jobs.
“The impact that visitor spending has on creating jobs and essential tax revenue for so many communities statewide cannot be overstated,” Guadagno said. “We look forward to further assisting more tourism-related businesses grow, and in doing so continue to promote the diversity of venues and destinations available to all visitors.”
Employment directly related to tourism was down in Atlantic County for 2013 by 3.8 percent. In Cape May County, tourism-related employment was up 1.1 percent.
According to the report, Atlantic County is responsible for 39.6 percent of the state’s direct tourism employment and Cape May County for 48.5 percent.
Including both direct and indirect impacts, tourism in New Jersey generated $4.6 billion in state and local taxes and $5.2 billion in federal taxes last year.
Cape May and Atlantic counties also lead the state in tourism taxes. Atlantic County provides the state with 17.7 percent of the state and local tax receipts from tourism, and Cape May County with 11.1 percent.
Wieland said the county department of tourism is pleased with the increase this year.
“Cape May County has never, in the 20 years since 1994, we have never been at a standstill,” she said of tourism growth. “Our growth continues.”