Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
MEET WITH STATE TOURISM CHIEF TO DISCUSS OPPORTUNITIES
Acting State Travel and Tourism Executive Director Jake Buganski briefed the Morris County Board of Freeholders yesterday on the state and county’s untapped tourism potential, saying a new, coordinated statewide tourism plan combined with some increases in funding to better promote tourist destinations could have a positive impact on the county’s economy.
“Tourism is a very important industry in New Jersey, a $43 billion dollar industry that is the front door to economic development, that is a great lure for new business and to keeping business already located here,’’ said Buganski.
“But travel and tourism in our state has been struggling a bit in recent times,’’ he told the Freeholders at their work session in Morristown.
Buganski came to Morris County at the invitation of Freeholder Christine Myers. She has been in the forefront of a county effort to focus on business and industry, and has touted the “great potential’’ of linking business opportunities with tourism.
“We are sitting on such a treasure in Morris County of fantastic historic sites and great county parks which we have not fully tapped into yet from an economic perspective,’’ said Freeholder Myers. “The tourism industry has great potential to aid in the economic growth of our county, especially in bringing in new revenues streams and making the county even more attractive to future business development.’’
Tourism is a $2.1 billion dollar business in Morris County, which is up 32 percent since 2010. A small county tourism bureau, based in Morristown, coordinates that effort, with an annual budget of about $500,000, of which $150,000 is available for marketing.
Buganski said that budget is far lower than most comparably sized tourism agencies in the state and region, and credited Morris County Tourism Board Executive Director Leslie Bensley and her staff for “doing an excellent job with limited resources.’’
His own budget, he explained, is just $9 million statewide, of which only $5 million is available for promotion of tourism. That compares, for example, to the city of Philadelphia, which has a $15 million tourism budget.
However, Buganski said money is not the only determining factor in the success of a statewide marketing effort. Development of a “coordinated, clear and concise messaging’’ shared by state, county and local tourism agencies is a starting point.
His agency is working on a series of steps that includes targeting trade shows, tour agencies, industry leaders, developing better partnerships with local and county tourist offices, and courting the news and travel media, among others, to help publicize the state, and to generate interest in its historic and recreational opportunities.
After the freeholder meeting, Buganski toured the Macculloch Hall historic site in Morristown and then had a subsequent meeting with several county, parks and tourism officials for a more detailed discussion on Morris County’s tourism efforts.
Charged with leading New Jersey’s $43 billion travel and tourism industry, Buganski is responsible for the state’s travel trade development, tourism product development, visitor welcome services, and tourism outreach programs.
Buganski became the state’s Acting Travel and Tourism Director in December. Previously, he served as president of the Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes Tourism Bureau in New York, and as Executive Director of Visit South Jersey.