Please read below testimony from Chrissy Buteas on strategies to expand tourism industry at the NJ shore.
To: Members of Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee
September 12, 2018
On behalf of our member companies that provide more than 1 million jobs in the state and make the New Jersey Business & Industry Association the largest statewide business association in the nation, we write to express our thoughts on successful strategies to strengthen and expand tourism in New Jersey’s coastal regions.
New Jersey tourism is a $45.5 billion industry and the state’s 7th largest employer. The economies of our shore communities are the most dependent on tourism for their livelihood. In Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties tourism directly provides 102,302 jobs and generates $17.8 billion in state and local tax revenue. In Atlantic and Cape May counties alone, direct tourism accounts for 29.7 percent and 43.5 percent, respectively, of all private sector jobs.
Thousands of small businesses in New Jersey’s shore towns — the motels, the restaurants, the boardwalk arcades, the souvenir shops and others — depend on tourism for their livelihood. NJBIA commends this Senate committee’s efforts to catalyze tourism at the shore and offers the following thoughts about what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do, in this regard.
The state must recognize that New Jersey tourism, with the exception of the Atlantic City casinos, is primarily an industry of small and medium-size businesses that are unable to absorb the added cost to comply with new laws, regulations and state mandates. Yet, too often, small businesses are treated as if they have unlimited resources. A case in point is the stated intention of Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders to enact a $15 minimum wage, which will undermine our best efforts to grow the tourism economy.
NJBIA believes it is vitally important that any minimum wage increase legislation include exemptions for small seasonal businesses, which cannot afford to pay high school teenagers $15 an hour for a summer job on the boardwalk. We need our lawmakers to recognize that the annual peak season for most tourism businesses is finite.
Many of our members have also told us they will need to raise prices to accommodate a dramatically higher minimum wage. With that in mind, we should also recognize that some families may think twice before a family night out at the boardwalk, as an example, due to increased costs for rides, amusements and food. Cumulatively and annually, this could have a great impact on New Jersey’s tourism industry.
In addition, any increase in the minimum wage should also contain so called “economic off-ramp” provisions to protect small businesses from having to pay scheduled mandated wage increases during severe economic downturns or in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
NJBIA also supports policies that encourage year-round businesses to open in shore communities, as well as a more streamlined environmental permitting process. Lengthy delays for CAFRA and other environmental permits discourage new investment.
Smart-growth policies and mass transportation improvements should also be pursued so that the coastal communities in South Jersey are less dependent on automobiles to bring in tourists and workers that the local economy needs to flourish.
Thank you for your consideration of our comments.