TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Antwan McClellan introduced legislation last week in an effort to help tourism-related businesses get back on their feet for the summer season next year.
The bill (A4731) would require that, beginning in 2021, all funds collected from the state’s hotel-motel occupancy tax must be allocated to support tourism, the arts and historical programs.
“New Jersey’s tourism industry is in severe jeopardy, not just because of the shutdowns this year but because of the long term effects of the pandemic,” said McClellan (R-Cape May) who serves on the serves on the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. “When I saw the impact the Covid-19 pandemic and shutdown had on the tourism industry, I felt compelled to step in and help.”
Tourism came to a sudden halt in March after setting records in 2019. Experts predict it will take at least three to four years for the state to fully recover.
Lawmakers approved legislation in January, which was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, that guarantee at least $55 million from the tax would go toward funding arts and tourism programs. It includes $31.9 million for the Council on the Arts, $5.5 million for the historical commission and $17.6 million for the Division of Travel and Tourism.
Revenue from the tax has grown dramatically over recent years. The state treasurer predicted $124 million in receipts this year.
“The economies of our shore communities are the most dependent on tourism for their livelihood,” said McClellan. “We have to get this right.”
More than 116 million people visited New Jersey in 2019, spending over $46 billion and generating more than $5.1 billion in state and local taxes.
Tourism is the largest employer for Cape May County, which McClellan represents in the state Assembly, accounting for 42.6% of jobs. When the indirect impact is taken into account, that number jumps to nearly 60%.