From March 20-22 leaders from the tourism industry will gather for the annual NJ Conference on Tourism. Destination marketing professionals, tour bus operators, representatives from campgrounds hotels and restaurants, casinos, retail, amusement parks, and yes, cultural venues will meet in Atlantic City to discuss trends affecting New Jersey’s third largest industry. At this year’s conference, Game on to Greatness—Restoring the Garden State, arts and culture will play a seminal role in helping New Jersey’s tourism industry weather an uncertain summer season while our shore recovers and rebuilds. As a partner in every sense of the word, the cultural industry will be heavily relied upon to sustain tourism revenue in New Jersey for many months ahead.
Opening remarks will be delivered by Pam Breaux, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (DCRT). Pam is also First Vice-President of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and former Executive Director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Pam has “in the trenches” experience and graciously offered to share the story of how Louisiana rebuilt its tourism industry following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Pam is recognized nationally as a cultural tourism leader and for her role in developing Louisiana’s valued creative industries. Her advice is certain to be eagerly absorbed by the change makers who are charged with tackling New Jersey’s own unique redevelopment challenges.
To place cultural tourism in context, it’s helpful to refer to a 2009 study by the US Dept. of Commerce Office of Travel & Tourism that revealed that 78% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling, translating to 118.3 million adults each year, and ultimately $192 billion of economic activity. In New Jersey these statistics are critical since state funding for arts, history and tourism is derived from the NJ Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee. In other words, we have skin in this game, and while all visitor related spending is coveted, our ultimate target is the overnight visitor.
The NJ Conference on Tourism is a perfect opportunity for cultural organizations to network with the rest of the hospitality industry, and smart arts marketers will invent new ways to partner with hotels, restaurants and other venues to create packages that will lure cultural tourists.
And there’s always fun, too. On Thursday morning, Tony Award winning actor, John Lloyd Young, the original Frankie Valli of Jersey Boys, will present the NJ People’s Choice Awards to 14 non-profit arts organizations that were declared favorites by over 7,000 voters throughout the state. From favorite performing arts center to favorite downtown arts district, cultural venues will shine with pride from knowing their audiences appreciate offerings on stages, in galleries, museums and art classes throughout the year. Discover Jersey Arts coordinates the annual People’s Choice Awards that has grown over 5 years to reach the public in new ways, most recently through creative social media marketing.
Ultimately, all good partnerships involve trust, respect, commitment and cooperation, and this annual conference offers ways to strengthen those values and promote “pride in place.” That mutual goal benefits not only the partners involved, but enterprise and economic development throughout New Jersey.
Images courtesy of ArtPride
Ann Marie Miller is the Executive Director of ArtPride, the premier arts advocacy organization in New Jersey, and a regular contributor to the Dodge blog.