NJ travel restrictions negatively affect tourist attractions

Restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 reversed a decade’s worth of tourism growth in the Garden State, an analysis released Thursday found.

The number of people visiting New Jersey in 2020 dropped 27% from 2019 to 86.4 million visitors, according to the New Jersey Department of Travel and Tourism.

And fewer visitors meant fewer dollars spent: Spending was $29.4 billion, down 37% from 2019.

Closings, capacity restrictions and travel limitations played a significant role in the declines, according to the department.

“New Jersey’s tourism is vital to our state’s overall economy, and our industry has been devastated by the pandemic,” New Jersey Tourism Industry Association President Adam Perle said in a statement.

“Collectively we urge our elected officials to continue and expand their support of the tourism industry to ensure a full and robust recovery.”

What could reverse the tourism trend?

Cape May Lighthouse, a bike ride away from historic Cape May.

Some help is on the way, though, from the state government. And a loosening of COVID restrictions is expected to provide a major boost to the state’s tourism.

In recent weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy has signed several bills into law aimed at helping businesses jump-start their recovery, including $35 million for restaurants and $15 million for small businesses and nonprofits.

The industry could also get a boost from the Murphy administration as it looks to divvy up New Jersey’s $6.4 billion share of the federal American Rescue Plan, which is President Joe Biden’s first stimulus package approved in March.