The Meadowlands Regional Chamber and the Meadowlands Liberty Convention & Visitors Bureau presented its 10th annual tourism conference, MDest 2015: Dynamics & Destinations, in October. The event, held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, was attended by tourism industry leaders and distinguished speakers who discussed how to further grow the tourism industry in the Meadowlands and New Jersey.
The tourism sector is already a viable and growing source of revenue for New Jersey (visitors to New Jersey spent $40 billion in 2014, according to state data, which is nearly $10 billion more than they spent in 2004) but leaders of destination marketing organizations (DMO’s) feel there are more potential gains by investing further in tourism.
Currently, the privately-operated DMO’s across the state split about $1.6 million in state funds to promote their destinations and draw visitors from out of state.
“We have to be really good at finding how to spend that little bit of money and making sure we spend it in the most efficient ways,” said Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of the Meadowlands Liberty Convention Visitors Bureau.
In recent years, the Meadowlands has hosted WrestleMania, the Super Bowl and other large-scale events that brought in tax dollars and economic benefits to local businesses.
The other DMO leaders who spoke at MDest also outlined some of their strategies and achievements:
Leslie Bensley, the executive director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau, said her organization pushed to install old-fashioned way-finding signs that represent Morris County as a heritage and cultural destination.
Visit South Jersey, which encompasses Burlington, Gloucester, Salem and Camden counties, has grown tourism in the area by 30 percent, executive director Jake Buganski said. He attributes this partly to promoting the region as a wine producing hub.
Tammy Horsfield, who serves as the president of the Sussex County Convention Visitors Bureau, has made her mark by promoting the county’s ecotourism and outdoor opportunities.
The DMO leaders agreed that they could do more marketing and attract even greater numbers of visitors to the Garden State if they received more state funding. For instance, Kirkos reported that MetLife Stadium has lost events to other stadiums because rival bids have more financial backing from local tourism organizations.
Buganski said increasing tourism spending would be a good investment for New Jersey because it would allow the DMO’s to bring more people into the areas to increase tax revenue—without having to spend more dollars on infrastructure or education.
Recognizing achievements in the Meadowlands
Tourism & Hospitality Awards were also granted at MDest, recognizing local businesses that have made an impact on improving the region’s tourism sector and putting the Meadowlands on the map for more visitors.
The following Meadowlands businesses received accolades:
Best Visitor Experience – Field Station: Dinosaurs, Secaucus, NJ
Best Marketing Practice – Redd’s Bar and Restaurant, Carlstadt, NJ
Best Green Initiative – MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Community Impact – Pole Position Raceway, Jersey City, NJ