What’s the biggest misconception about state tourism?
It is the second largest industry in the state, with beautiful beaches and places to see, yet we have this mindset that we don’t have to do anything about it and people are just going to come.
How do we rank in terms of public investment for tourism?
Our marketing budget is $12.7 million. Pennsylvania has a $33 million budget, New York State has about $40 million, and Las Vegas has close to $75 million. I have been very aggressive lobbying the state to get more money. We must do more to compete more effectively.
What aspect of the tourism initiative is the most challenging?
Considering the budget constraints we’ve had, we have creatively looked to partner with the private enterprises and regions in the state that are tourism-focused and say collectively, “Let’s do this together.” The tourism industry up until this point was very fragmented.
It seems like the Shore is broken up into a lot of little pieces. How do you market it?
We encouraged the three Shore regions to act cooperatively so that New Jersey can compete more effectively and aggressively in attracting more visitors to tour 127 miles of beaches. The result is the Jersey Shore Alliance. This provides [alliance members] with triple the buying power for their media campaigns.
How does Atlantic City fit into this?
Atlantic City is a huge tourist destination that is burgeoning with development. What is occurring is a lot of investment and renovation of the casinos and hotels, such as the Quarter at Tropicana. They are also working to bring other sports venues and attractions there. Atlantic City has marketed itself on its own, but we are trying to pull everyone together.
What about sports? Is that tourism?
Sports are very important. We have the Meadowlands, Giants Stadium, and…we have some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. Monmouth Park Racetrack is hosting the Breeder’s Cup in 2007. For New Jersey to be able to host an event of this magnitude at Monmouth Park is wonderful, as it is such a historic horse-racing venue.
How does tourism most impact the state economy?
It is the second largest industry in New Jersey, bringing in $32 billion in revenue. It employs 430,000 people in the state. There is still enormous potential for this industry to grow. If we can increase this budget to $35 million per year, the return conservatively is 10 to 1. I think our legislators are recognizing that.
I keep hearing about ecotourism. What is it and why should we care about it?
Ecotourism brings people to a natural environment. For example, I bet you weren’t aware that in the Meadowlands there are great bird-watching opportunities.
Steve Adubato is an Emmy–winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and host of One-on-One With Steve Adubato on the Comcast Network.