There was a lot of doom and gloom about New Jersey's tourism outlook following Superstorm Sandy, but in reality 2013 ended up being a record-setting year -- in a good way.

Jersey Shore
Toniann Antonelli, Townsquare Media NJ

The state's annual tourism report showed New Jersey set a record in 2013 with $40.4 billion in economic activity from tourism, beating 2012's $40 billion total.

Visitation to the Garden State also rose, to 87.2 million people in 2013. That's a 5.9 percent increase compared to the prior year.

While many people worried Sandy was going to drive visitors away, Bob Hilton, executive director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the "Stronger Than the Storm" campaign and subsequent marketing blitz could have brought the shore back into people's minds.

"Maybe growing up, they always went to the Jersey Shore and they wanted something different, and now they saw on television 'New Jersey, Jersey Shore, Jersey Shore,'" Hilton said, "so they think 'let's go back for a day and see how it looks.'"

Those day trips into the state are what Hilton said contributed to the good tourism figures, even amid a lagging summer rental market.

He also gives credit to the people who came immediately after the storm.

"We might have still gotten some revenue from folks who might have not come to the area normally but wanted to help," Hilton said. "I call it 'volunteer tourism.'"

With many parts of the shore damaged, Hilton said the rest of the state had more of an opportunity to present options for visitors.

"There really is so much more than the shore, and to incorporate their day trip, their overnight trip, their weeklong trip -- the arts, the history, and music of the state is going to be key in growing the economy," Hilton said.

While the figures might have been shocking, Hilton is already optimistic for 2014.

"I think you are going to see a drastic jump in numbers if the weather breaks and it becomes a warm and dry spring, summer, and fall," Hilton said.

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