Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read January 2022 — Although the omicron variant of the coronavirus remains a concern, those in the hospitality and tourism sectors can breathe easier in anticipation of additional state and federal support.
Before breaking for Christmas, the New Jersey Assembly passed Assembly Bill 5689, which would set aside $25 million of federal aid to further bolster the hospitality and tourism industry across the state. The bill’s provisions stipulate $5 million would be set aside for use by state-recognized destination marketing organizations that would promote all regions of the state. The remaining $20 million would be deployed by the Division of Travel and Tourism to aid in the “economic recovery of the travel and tourism industry” from the pandemic in unspecified ways.
The measure was approved in the state Assembly on June 24. It passed the state Senate on Dec. 20, by a 39-0 vote. Gov.Phil Murphy is expected to sign it in the coming days.
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, one of the bill’s sponsors, stated that “significant increase in resources must be allocated to advertise and promote New Jersey’s travel and tourism industry to effectively communicate that the state’s tourism destinations are open, operational, and safe. This includes allocating resources to Destination Marketing Organizations recognized by the state to market all regions of the state and work cooperatively with the state’s overall marketing campaign. This also includes promoting industries and destinations in New Jersey that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as food and liquor establishments across the state.”
The tourism and hospitality industry is one of the key drivers of New Jersey’s economy, with visitors spending $46.4 billionopens PDF file in 2019. In 2020, despite pandemic losses, the sector still managed to bring in $29.4 billionopens PDF file in visitor spending. While the omicron variant presents another potential setback for the industry, businesses remain confident that come what may, 2022 will be a year of continued recovery.
“I think 2022 is going to be a little more in line with 2021. We most likely won’t see pre-COVID numbers until we get into 2023 as far as business travelers,” said Courtyard by Marriott Lincroft Red Bank General Manager Kiernan Newman to Invest:. “The market of social and leisure is where it’s at right now and New Jersey is looking more attractive to business … I think this area is going to evolve a lot in the coming years and result in an interesting new dynamic.”
The legislation arrives at the governor’s desk as omicron concerns linger and the region experiences a surge in cases. While cases remain high, vaccinated and boosted individuals seem to be at lower risk of hospitalization from the latest variant, with the CDC noting mild symptoms and recommending a five-day quarantine followed by an additional five days masked if asymptomatic.
“This omicron tsunami has changed the game yet again,” Murphy said on Monday at a briefing. “We cannot summarily give up the fight. We need to remain on a war footing to ensure that we can get resources to where they need to be, when they need to be there.” While the governor urged caution, he stopped short of implementing any statewide restrictions, noting that communities should implement their own guidelines informed by their local reality.
Referring in part to First Lady Tammy Murphy’s positive, asymptomatic case, the governor said: “If you do the right thing — if you’re double-vaccinated, you’re boosted, you do everything in accordance to the guidance we know works — you may get it because it’s so crazy transmissible. But, God willing, you don’t get sick enough to be miserable, or worse yet, go to the hospital, or worse yet, get really sick or maybe even die,” the governor said. “Get vaccinated, get boosted. That’s the best, smartest thing you can do.”