The New Jersey Division of Travel & Tourism today released the “2021 Economic Impact of Tourism in New Jersey” study at the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association’s (NJTIA) annual Advocacy Day event, signaling the strengthening recovery across key travel sectors with positive forecasts in the year ahead.

Visitation grows 14% over pandemic lows

According to the state’s independent research partner, Tourism Economics, visitation to New Jersey increased over 14% from 2020, welcoming a total of 96.6 million visitors in 2021. Despite the additional 12 million visitors, visitation recovery was uneven, impacted by the delta and omicron COVID-19 variants during fall and winter travel. Visitation remained 17% below the record-breaking levels achieved in 2019.

Visitor spending surpasses 2020 predictions

Visitor spending surged to $37.3 billion in 2021, surpassing 2020’s multiyear recovery predictions, to regain nearly a half of pandemic losses. Supplementing the 27% growth is an increase in per-traveler spending to $386 per trip, nearing pre-pandemic levels. Overall, visitor spending generated a total of $4.6 billion in state and local taxes.

As visitor volume continues to rebound with loosening travel restrictions and the re-opening of international borders, data reveals that visitors are spending more on trips to the Garden State.

“New Jersey is fortunate to welcome visitors from across the country and around the globe, in addition to providing an in-state travel destination for many residents. As the increase in visitor spending continues to re-stimulate the state’s economy, the fiscal contributions in 2021 represented a $1,400 in tax savings to New Jersey households,” said New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “While spending across primary tourism categories increased in 2021, it’s equally important to emphasize that traveler activity benefits industries throughout the state with significant indirect and induced revenues.”

Lodging leads spending by category with 28% of visitor share

All tourism and travel business sectors experienced a jump in spending in 2021, led by a 36% increase in lodging sales. Lodging businesses witnessed the largest spend by category at $10.5 billion, pushing ahead of food and beverage, as room demand surged, casinos re-opened, and the summer shore season remained actively strong.

Tourism and travel industry supports 430,000 state jobs

“The overall impact of visitors is vital to New Jersey’s robust economy, and we see that clearly in how the industry supported one-in-12 jobs in the state last year, recouping close to a third of pandemic-induced job losses,” said New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism Executive Director Jeff Vasser. “So much of our success is dependent on meeting and exceeding travelers’ expectations, and to that end, we have pivoted how our industry recruits, develops and retains employees to ensure a welcoming—and repeat—experience for both visitors and staff.”

Key findings from the “2021 Economic Impact of Tourism in New Jersey” study

  • New Jersey welcomed 96.6 million visitors in 2021 with visitation growing over 14% from 2020; visitation remained 17% below 2019’s record-breaking levels.
  • Visitors spent $37.3 billion in New Jersey in 2021, representing an $8 billion increase from 2020.
  • Per-visitor spending for both overnight and day visitors recovered to near pre-pandemic levels with each traveler spending $386 per trip in New Jersey in 2021.
  • Visitor spending generated $4.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2021, equivalent to $1,400 in tax savings for every household in New Jersey.
  • Tourism supported over 430,000 New Jersey jobs (one-in-12) and nearly $20 billion in state gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, representing 2.8% of the state economy.

New Jersey visitation and spend forecasts expect further rebound

New visitation state forecasts predict 12% growth to 108 million person-trips in 2022, recovering about 75% of visitation losses from the pandemic. Visitation is estimated to reach pre-COVID levels in 2023. Additionally, visitor spending is projected to surpass $44 billion this year, which is a 19% increase, pushing it to 90% of pre-pandemic levels with full recovery achieved in 2023.

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