New Jersey targets local markets, Canada, seniors

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TRENTON -- Tourism, New Jersey's No. 2 industry, should continue to do well the rest of the year, with spending projected to increase over 1998, according to acting tourism director Donna Bakelaar.

"It looks very good. Our business has been on the incline every year and it looks that way this year, too," she said.

Tourism, trailing only pharmaceuticals as a source of state income, generated $27 billion in 1997 and $28.1 billion last year, Bakelaar said.

The primary tourist target is state residents, but New York and Philadelphia are also important markets, she said.

Some visitors are choosing New Jersey over New York for two reasons, she added. "One is that they can't afford the $300 to $400-[per]-night hotels. The second reason is security. They feel more secure here," she said.

Canadians are an important market for the state. Recently, 30-second radio spots have aired in regions of eastern Canada and areas bordering the northeastern U.S. More than 200,000 Canadians visit the state each year, spending more than $54.5 million, Bakelaar said. "New Jersey is easily accessible, and affordable, for Canadians looking for a beach vacation, whether they're coming by car or plane," Bakelaar said.

She said New Jersey is also benefiting from the trend of U.S. residents who normally go to Europe looking for vacations closer to home because of perceived turmoil. "We're finding those people are looking for alternate destinations and, of course, we have 127 miles of shoreline. We have wonderful scenery, a lot of bed and breakfasts and good entertainment. And we have a lot of events year-round," she said.

The state has no taxes on clothing and shoes, she said, which has helped spur the growth of factory outlet centers.

There are 1 million people living in New Jersey age 60 and over, and that is another target market, Bakelaar said. Following is a sampling of new developments:

  • Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari in Jackson had a $42 million expansion that included 25 new rides. Park officials said the increase should greatly reduce lines.
  • Keansburg Amusement Park has a new multimillion-dollar Runaway Rapids Waterpark. Its makeover also includes an 18-hole golf course, a Ferris wheel and two new thrill rides, Chaos and Tornado.
  • A train operated by Cape May Seashore Lines, which runs through the restored 19th century town of Cold Spring Village to the Cape May County Park and Zoo, has been extended into Cape May. Visitors can park at Cold Spring Village and leave their cars behind to visit Cape May.
  • In Atlantic City, the Absecon Lighthouse, built in 1847, was renovated and is open to the public, and a new $4 million Ocean Life center opened with displays of marine life at Historic Gardner's Basin.
  • The New Jersey Commerce & Economic Growth Commission
    Phone: (800) VISITNJ

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