ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Cheap gas and sunny skies helped the tourism industry generate $43.4 billion in New Jersey in 2015, an increase of more than 3 percent.
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said lower gas prices left travelers more money for food, recreation and retail shopping.
"We bounced back in part because of the glorious weather we had last summer, and that glorious weather brought so many tourists to the Jersey shore," Guadagno said.
The shore accounted for nearly half of the state's tourism spending in 2015, at 48 percent. Many shore towns reported record beach badge sales last summer.
But other areas of the state that are somewhat lesser known for tourism also had a good year in 2015. Guadagno said Passaic County saw a 9.9 percent increase in tourism spending, Cumberland County was up 8.8 percent and Hudson County was up 8.6 percent.
The number of visitors to New Jersey increased by 2.4 percent last year to 95 million.
In 2015, the tourism industry directly supported 318,330 jobs in New Jersey.
When jobs indirectly related to tourism are included, the industry accounts for nearly 1 of every 10 jobs in the state, or about 512,000.
Hotel room demand rose just over 1 percent. But excluding Atlantic County, which continues to suffer from the slowdown of the Atlantic City casino industry, hotel room demand grew by 3.3 percent. Summer "bed tax" revenue in 2015 exceeded those of the previous peak in 2012, before Superstorm Sandy hit.
Including indirect and indirect impacts, tourism in New Jersey generated $10.2 billion in government revenue last year, including $4.7 billion in state and local tax revenues. The tourism sector generated $37.3 billion of state gross domestic product in 2015, representing 6.6 percent of the entire state economy.
Guadagno said that without the tourism industry, New Jersey households would pay $1,490 more each in order to maintain the current level of state and local government services.
The lieutenant governor also said Atlantic City will remain a strong tourism destination despite its struggles and a planned state takeover of its finances.
"People going to Atlantic City don't ask if there's a state takeover; they ask "Is the sun shining and are the casinos open?'" she said. "This summer I'm hoping the sun is shining and the casinos are open."
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