STAFFORD – A New Jersey tourism official pledged support for local businesses, and informed them of state efforts to determine the status of the tourism industry.
Jake Buganski, acting executive director of the state Division of Travel and Tourism, said tourism is a $43 billion industry, and he is working to have the industry taken seriously. He was speaking at the State of the Chamber 2017 breakfast at the Holiday Inn on Route 72 in Stafford.
“It’s hard to find any business in Ocean County that cannot be affected by tourism,” he said.
He said that Superstorm Sandy is a “fading memory,” at least in terms of tourism, that is “not really on anybody’s mind.”
Tourism is rebounding since the storm, he said, but officials needed to know where people are spending their money and if advertising is effective.
To do this, the state is paying for some services to gather information about tourism. One is a software called Arrivalist, to determine what advertising is working and what isn’t. Another is DestinationNext, which provides a marketing road map. There is also a public relations program underway where an outside company will be generating story pitches to media outlets. They would then look for businesses to host the writers and give them the experience that a tourist would.
There would also be a study to determine if New Jersey is gaining or losing market share to other states, he said.
Business owners were able to ask questions of Buganski, but only two did. One asked if there will be an increase in funding to destination marketing organizations. Buganski said he is an advocate of increasing it, but it would likely be the same amount as the previous year.
David Taylor, owner of Taylor Made Cabinets and a Stafford councilman, asked about the 3.5 percent sales tax for businesses in the urban enterprise zones. These were areas that the government wanted to help financially ‑‑ by allowing them to charge less in sales tax, the theory is that it would bring more business to places with bad economies.
Taylor said that the urban enterprise zones hurt local businesses that are outside of the zone, and said he has lost a log to businesses in Lakewood, which has also been added to this program years ago. On a $10,000 kitchen, that could be a lot. He said it is not fair to take business out of other locations with this program. Buganski said he would take that back to the governor.
Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari, who attended the meeting with Stephen Scaturro, director of the county department of consumer affairs, pledged the county’s support to business owners. However, since there was a state representative present, he called for improvement of Route 9 to help residents get around, and to help all business owners that rely on that important road.
“Route 9 is the same as it was in 1929,” he said. For all the transportation costs Ocean County residents pay – including Garden State Parkway tolls and the 23 cent gas tax – they should be getting a return on their investment, he said. “They’re taking a lot of money out of Ocean County.”