TOMS RIVER – Tourists love Ocean County more than ever, with record numbers of visitors spending time and money here in 2015.
Tourism now injects $4.6 billion into the County’s economy, up from $4.3 billion in 2014.
“There is no question that tourism is the number one industry in Ocean County,” said Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari. “These numbers prove that tourism is not only strong, but is growing.”
A report issued by the state Division of Travel and Tourism confirms what county officials had predicted: tourism figures are climbing three years following Superstorm Sandy.
Ocean County now accounts for more than 10 percent of all tourism dollars generated in the state.
“We’ve seen a 5 percent increase in tourism dollars in only one year,” said Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Business Development and Tourism. “We fully expect to see this number grow with each passing season.”
Only Atlantic and Cape May counties generated more dollars in 2015.
By comparison, Monmouth County tourism economy stands at $2.4 billion, about half of Ocean County’s total.
“More and more visitors continue to be attracted to our 44 miles of white sandy beaches, the Barnegat Bay, the Pinelands and other destinations such as Six Flags and our boardwalks,” Vicari said. “For our residents, this means a stronger local economy, employment and a more stable tax base.”
In 2015, Ocean County tourism generated $451.4 million in state and local tax revenue.
Additionally, more than 37,000 tourism-related jobs were created in the county.
“Tourism helps put people back to work,” Vicari said.
More than 98 percent of all the county’s tourism-related businesses are “Mom & Pop” family owned businesses, Vicari said.
“The money they make stays in Ocean County,” he said. “Every tourism dollar recirculates seven times.”
Vicari said that while some residents may complain about crowded roads and beaches every summer, the benefits of tourism far outweigh the inconveniences.
“Every homeowner in the county would pay an average of $1,400 more a year in taxes if it wasn’t for tourism,” he said.
State-wide, the tourism outlook is bright. The report predicts tourism spending in New Jersey will top $50 billion by 2020.
“In Ocean County we expect to reach $5 billion within the next several years,” Vicari said.
Freeholder Director John P. Kelly said low gas prices have also helped drive people to the County and the Jersey Shore.
“For more than 100 years tourists have been coming to Ocean County. People around the state and in New York and Philadelphia know the good things we have to offer,” said Kelly, who is also Director of Law and Public Safety. “Our Tourism Department has done a great job reaching out to other parts of the country and to Canada in an effort to attract new visitors.”