AS I SEE IT: Plenty of reasons to stay-cation

By Peter Crowley
   As I see it, tourism is gearing up and driving growth throughout the five-county Princeton region; this means increased opportunities for our businesses. From Hamilton to Hopewell and from Princeton to Plainsboro expenditures for travel and entertainment in Mercer County are expected to exceed $1 billion dollars again in 2013.
   In Mercer County alone, tourism expenditures were $1.13 billion in 2012, an almost 4 percent increase from 2011.
   The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce is the state-designated Destination Marketing Organization for our Mercer County region through its Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CVB) and the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission (MCSEC). The CVB and MCSEC has been working with partners as varied as Frontier Airlines, Mercer County Economic Development, Grounds for Sculpture, Mercer County Parks and others to create strategic alliances that drive tourism and increase economic growth and impact for our region.
   What does tourism mean to our region? If tourism did not exist in our communities, each property owner would need to pay $1,420 extra in taxes just to maintain current revenue levels. I can think of 1,420 things I’d rather be doing with this money!
   Visitors and tourists to our region stay at our hotels and bed and breakfasts, eat at our restaurants, visit our cultural attractions and shop at our retail locations.
   Tourism also means jobs. The total employment impact was 20,638, or 9.4 percent of the county’s employment in 2012
   As the entire state recovers from Superstorm Sandy, tourism dollars are even more critical. All of the destination marketing organizations in the state have been working together tirelessly to get the message out that New Jersey is open for business this summer, stronger and more resilient than before. You may have seen the commercials or heard the radio jingles that are part of the multi-faceted $25 million campaign to get the word out that New Jersey is Stronger than the Storm, or #STTS.
   Tourism dollars are extra important this year as the summer season officially kicks off. The revenue from visitors will help businesses continue to rebuild, recover and renew throughout the state — from Sussex to Somerset to Ship Bottom.
   In addition to offering support to Shore-area businesses throughout the summer season I’ll be looking forward to catching a baseball game at Arm & Hammer Park, seeing great local fireworks July 4 week, picking up Jersey fresh produce at area farmers markets, playing golf at a number of our great courses, enjoying music at the Arts Council of Princeton and having a quick meal at the new Sky Lounge at Ewing before my Frontier Airlines flight to Durham, N.C., to visit my new grandson!
   As I see it, everyone should “stay-cation” a bit and explore and enjoy everything this wonderful region and state have to offer.
   I’ll being seeing you soon.
Peter Crowley is the CEO and president of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.