The upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the 2014 summer tourism season in New Jersey, but it's also the first time Sandy won't be the first thing on the minds of tourism officials.

Al Bello, Getty Images

During a kickoff ceremony in Asbury Park on Wednesday, representatives from both Monmouth and Ocean counties, the Monmouth-Ocean Development Council, and the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau spoke about the big initiatives they had for summer 2014.

Those include a huge karaoke contest with big cash prizes that will run until the fall, a chance for shoppers to win $100,000 by texting the serial number of one-dollar bills they receive while shopping at the shore, and the welcoming of the Summer Special Olympics, which promises to bring in millions of dollars in revenue for the state.

This is a stark contrast from the sentiment last summer, when the main concern was just getting the message out that businesses were open and the beaches were safe.

"The goal is to get people to come to the Jersey Shore and have a good time and not look back, but ahead," said Robert Hilton, director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Hilton said if anything, the shore groups can leverage the visitors that came for the first time last summer and turn them into repeat tourists.

"So, once they got here and they've never been here before, they realized it was a great place," he said. "Many of them told us they were coming back, so we have people who didn't come last year because they weren't sure whether everything was rebuilt, and we have a whole bunch of people who want to come back."

While there are still communities needing to rebuild after the storm, Monmouth County freeholder Thomas Arnone said from the tourism perspective, there is certainly more confidence this summer as opposed to last.

"It was tough but you have to look at it as a learning experience," Arnone said. "I truly do believe that right now, infrastructure-wise, we know what we need to never have it happen again, and I think we achieved that."

He said, after the fear that Sandy would decimate summer business, this summer should give everyone a healthy appreciation for the tourism industry in New Jersey.

"If we abolished tourism, it didn't exist, there would be 30,000 less people working, billions of dollars wouldn't be brought to our state, and each and every taxpayer in Monmouth County would pay an addition $1,400 a year to their taxes," Arnone said.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM