Jersey Shore advocates blame media as they worry about upcoming tourist season

TRENTON – Thanks largely to the media, there is an impression out there that much if not all of the Jersey Shore will not be open for the tourist season.  

That was just one of the criticisms made by tourism advocates and members of the Assembly Tourism Committee. It’s just not true, they said.

Assemblyman and committee chairman Matthew Milam (D-1) of Cape May, said there’s been a lot of “bad press,” focusing too much on the roller coaster in Seaside Heights that was tipped over in the ocean and a piece of the Atlantic City Boardwalk that was broken off and flowing into the water.

“That is an image that must change,” Milam said, adding that we need “to get New Jersey back in the good visual that people are used to.”

Vicki Clark of the Cape May Chamber of Commerce also blamed “part of the national press that had not been helping our cause, ” adding that it “has planted this belief that it’s all gone.”

She said much of the media focused on “flattened houses, dried-out boats,” adding, “not all of the Jersey coast was devastated.”

Clark, among others, called for support of a bill, A3630, that would appropriate $20 million toward an emergency advertising and  marketing campaign focusing on the fact that much of the Jersey Shore will be open for business.

But Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, (D-3), of Salem, said it could be a tough sell to convince the Christie Administration to support such a measure. Riley told Clark she has to offer “more incentives” to convince people to come.

“Here’s what it’s going to come down to…we’re going to take money away from other things,” Riley said. “We have to put out a better message. We have to show why it’s going to benefit us in the long run.”

Clark herself said the money for the emergency marketing would probably have to come from federal funds.

Diane Wieland, director of the Cape May Department of Tourism, said if fewer people stay at the hotels in Cape May, there will less revenue from the hotel or occupancy tax.

“That pot of gold is going to disappear,” she said.

While she admitted that there’s a ‘tough perception’ that the Jersey Shore will not be open for business, Wieland said that image must be shed. However, if there aren’ t enough ads in papers or brochures stating  that Cape May is up and running, other states like Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas stand to benefit.

Cape May, she said, is heavily dependent on visitors staying overnight, adding that it doesn’t need “daytrippers.”