Legislation Will Serve as Impetus to Strengthen Garden State Tourism; Restructure Tourism Advisory Council, Increase Industry Promotion, Streamline Communication

For Release:
January 12, 2006

CONTACT: Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew
(609) 465-0700

(TRENTON) -- Legislation Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew sponsored to help fortify New Jersey's standing as a premier national and international travel destination was today signed into law by Governor Richard J. Codey.

The Van Drew measure (A-4055) will strengthen New Jersey's tourism industry by restructuring the state's Tourism Advisory Council and realigning its goals and responsibilities. The new law will enhance tourism industry promotion, and increase communication between government officials and tourism's private sector.

"The Tourism Restructuring Act will help the state build upon and enhance its high-profile destinations like Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore," said Van Drew (D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic). "Visitors should take full advantage of everything this state has to offer" and that's some of the best arts and cultural experiences in the world."

Van Drew, chairman of the Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee, first outlined his "New Jersey Tourism Restructuring Act" in April at the 2005 Governor's Conference on Tourism.

Tourism is a $30 billion industry in New Jersey, making it the second-largest employer after the pharmaceutical industry. More than 10 percent of all state jobs are related directly to the tourism industry. Tax revenue for state and local government from the industry in 2003 alone was almost $3 billion.

"New Jersey can ill afford to not capitalize on its potential as a class-A tourist destination," said Van Drew. "By making a few simple structural changes to how the industry operates and how the state promotes itself, we stand to reap enormous economic benefits that could generate more state revenue for purposes of offsetting rising property taxes."

Van Drew's measure will restructure the Tourism Advisory Council and its duties. Under his plan, the panel will be renamed the Tourism Policy Council and would consist of eight members from various sectors, including lodging, food service, outdoor recreation, eco-tourism, entertainment, and convention center sectors, as well as the travel and tourism association.

The new council also will include two government officials, the executive directors of the Sports and Exposition Authority and of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

Established in 1977, members of the Tourism Advisory Council are appointed by the Governor and are responsible for advising the Governor and the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth & Tourism Commission on issues pertaining to the industry.

Van Drew said the structural changes to the council are necessary to ensure the establishment of a powerful brand presence for the state's tourism industry.

"A well-organized, well-run, and well-informed Tourism Policy Council will translate into positive results for an industry that cannot afford to fall short of its potential," said Van Drew. "Strong leadership at the top leads to benefits across the board. The Tourism Policy Council will be the brainchild of an effort to showcase New Jersey's astonishing tourist attractions."

Under Van Drew's plan, the Tourism Policy Council will be responsible for developing a strategy for tourism promotion across New Jersey; work directly with the Governor and the commissioner of Commerce; provide guidance to regional tourism councils; encourage the development of marketing plans; ensure the quality of promotional campaigns; and oversee the Cooperative Marketing Agreement (CMA).

Currently, the CMA -- a public-private partnership grant program designed to help grow tourism initiatives -- is run by the Division of Travel and Tourism. Van Drew's plan will have the new council administer the grant program. The members of the council will be responsible for accepting, reviewing and administering all grant applications.

The final part of Van Drew's Tourism Restructuring Act will increase communication between government officials and tourism's rivate sector. The CEO of the Commerce Commission would chair the Tourism Policy Council under the Van Drew plan. The council will be required statutorily to meet once per month, providing direct contact between government officials and tourism representatives.

The Division of Travel and Tourism will be responsible for providing a report on the status of the industry every six months. The report will include specifics on promotional efforts across the state, a financial account of all spending within the past six months, and a detailed analysis of how the division plans on promoting the industry during the next six months.

"The overall goal of the Tourism Restructuring Act is to ensure that New Jersey's tourism industry reach its full potential as an economic stimulant," said Van Drew. "This act will help the tourism industry reach new heights in our state. New Jersey is a beautiful state with a wealth of history, culture, and arts. It's time we show what we have to the country, and the world."

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