TRENTON – New Jersey lawmakers want to reverse losses incurred by tourism destinations during the coronavirus pandemic by giving a major financial boost to advertisement and promotion of everything New Jersey has to offer to visitors.

A proposed New Jersey measure that would devote $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to the cause was approved Monday by a Senate committee. The measure was approved by the full Assembly in June.

"This money is definitely needed," Chrissy Buteas, chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, told the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. "It's not just the shore, but the entire New Jersey tourism industry."

Buteas noted that local and state tax revenue derived from tourism fell by about 21% between 2019 and 2020.

Visitation in 2020 fell to levels last seen in 2012, said Hilary Chebra, manager of government affairs for Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey. Even with employment losses caused by the pandemic, visitor spending still supported one out of every 24 jobs in New Jersey, Chebra said.

"I think that highlights the reason this industry is so crucial to New Jersey's economy, and the need to let folks know that we're back and open for business," Chebra said.

The bill states that one-fifth of the proposed $25 million for the state Division of Travel and Tourism would be used to market all regions of New Jersey. The remaining funds would be used to help industries and destinations most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis.

“A vibrant travel and tourism industry is vital to the overall economic well-being of New Jersey,” said Sen. James Beach, D-Camden, a sponsor of the legislation. “In order to help regain economic stability, we need to focus on rebooting this important industry.”

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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