“Now That’s New Jersey” is the catchy theme of the state’s latest campaign to promote tourism. It’s a provocative, perhaps risky, approach, given that many across the country, as well as some in our state, have come to see New Jersey through the warped lens of often raunchy reality TV shows, including Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious and the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Has it worked? “The reaction has been excellent,” says Grace Hanlon, executive director of New Jersey Travel and Tourism. “We are gauging that by the activity to our website, visitNJ.org.”
The numbers tell the story. “We have had a historic amount of hits since the campaign began in May,” Hanlon says. “Our website numbers reveal that our year-to-date visits are up 36 percent in 2011 from 2010. In fact, in June, during the height of our campaign, visits were up 46 percent as compared to 2010. In July, there were over 100,000 visitors to the site.”
Hanlon has more than data to back her optimism. “Verbally, I’m getting positive feedback on summer rentals from the real estate industry,” which is reporting that this year was better than last, she says. “While we can’t say that all of the activity in New Jersey and the Shore were directly related to the campaign, we do believe that the investments we made through the ‘Now That’s New Jersey’ campaign have paid off.”
She cites specific areas the campaign has benefited: “Asbury Park reported that in 2002, beach revenue for the entire year was $35,000. This year, the total revenue for the three-day Memorial Day weekend was $118,000. This is very significant. We also found that Cape May and Stone Harbor have been seeing more New Yorkers than previous years, which is fantastic.”
Social media also plays a role in the tourism uptick. “We are very excited about what we have been doing on Facebook,” Hanlon says. “Before the campaign, we only had 700 fans, and now we have over 11,000. People are interacting on our Facebook page and asking questions. We also have the state’s commercial on YouTube, which has been great.
“What we have found through our metrics is that our social media friends are spending more time on our website and are engaged on a higher level than those who simply go straight to our website.”
The campaign will continue as the leaves turn and nights get cooler. “We won’t be doing television or radio in the fall,” Hanlon notes. “What we will be doing is homing in on our PR message. Those outreach efforts will promote big fall events such as the Chowder Fest, the Chatsworth Cranberry Festival and the Cape May Food & Wine Festival. It’s a busy time.”