Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Chris Brown to help boost regional tourism advertising and promotion across the state cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sen. Chris Brown to help boost regional tourism advertising and promotion across the state has advanced. (SenateNJ.com)
“Everyone knows the competition for tourism dollars is intense, which is why we need to continue to fight to ensure Atlantic County gets its fair share of marketing dollars to protect the 70,000 families whose jobs depend on tourism,” said Brown.
Brown noted though the State raises over $100 million from the hotel-motel occupancy fee, it only spends $9 million of that revenue for tourism advertising, the same amount for the last 15 years. The hotel-motel occupancy fee is supposed to support tourism, the arts, culture, and history, yet most of the revenue is diverted for other purposes. Further, while Atlantic County generated $5.4 million in State hotel and motel occupancy fees in 2018, it only received $158,000 in State grants to help promote local tourism.
In order to shift more revenue back to tourism promotion and advertising, Brown’s measure (S-488) would establish the “County Tourism Incentive Grant Fund” to provide counties with money to market local entertainment options and vacation destinations. Excess funds collected from the State hotel-motel occupancy fee would be returned to the counties for tourism promotion in proportion to the hotel and motel occupancy fee the county generates.
“If we are serious about growing our tourism economy, we need to reinvest in what works. Tourism promotion pays for itself when we can encourage families to visit more often, stay longer, and spend more money at our local businesses and events,” Brown said.
A number of individuals representing many segments of the tourism industry testified in favor, citing Brown’s creative approach to getting additional dollars for tourism promotion.
Hilary Beckett of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey testified, “Although tourism continues to be a main driver of New Jersey’s economy, funding for tourism advertising and promotion have not followed proportionally year over year. Brown’s bill aims to help change this unfortunate trend. The CCSNJ, which always supports new and creative ideas, commends the sponsor for identifying the rational use for these excess monies generated from the hotel and motel occupancy fee and looks forward to the tourism industry reaping the benefits from this sensible idea.”
Max Slusher, Director of Business Development For the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, emphasized the need for a funding source to market non-Atlantic City events.
“County tourism outside of the city employs 21,112 jobs but has not had a source of marketing funds for almost a generation. Even a marginal commitment of marketing money will allow publicizing events within an hour or two drive and perhaps to the overnight market,” Slusher said. “With Senator Brown’s bill, the State is taking very little risk. In my opinion, the impact on Atlantic County and the State’s tourism product will be substantial in terms of both employment and additional tax revenues.”
Diane Wieland, Director of Cape May County Department of Tourism and Public Information testified, “The Governor challenged us to increase visitors to 150 million, so providing marketing grants through Sen. Brown’s bill will allow counties to expand their reach to bring more families to New Jersey.”
Adam Perle, President of the Board of Directors of the NJ Travel and Tourism Industry Association and CEO of Art Pride NJ, in this testimony in favor of the bill, applauded “dedicating more funds toward tourism marketing, and certainly doing it at the local level.”
Tourism-related spending reached $45 billion in 2018, accounting for almost $11 million in tax revenue for the state.
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee for further consideration.