Middlesex County, known as "The Greatest County in the Land" has a lot to look forward to in terms of tourism dollars, according to former East Brunswick mayor Bill Neary.
Nowhere else in the state do the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike meet, other than in Middlesex County, providing easy access for visitors, said Neary, who sits on the Board of Directors for the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The county has beach access, the state university, a destination city for arts and entertainment and major commuting arteries, he said.
And over the next two years, with Rutgers University's joining of the Big 10, and the 2014 Superbowl coming to New Jersey, there's a lot of opportunities for local businesses to get in on the tourism dollars that are going to be flowing into the state.
In 2011, Middlesex County saw $1.8 billion spent in tourism dollars at hotels, restaurants, transportation, entertainment and shopping. That $1.8 billion sustained over 35,000 jobs throughout Middlesex County, according to the Chamber.
From 2009 through 2011, Middlesex County consistently ranked number two in the state in occupancy taxes charged by hotels, ranking just behind Bergen County and above Morris County, Neary said.
At a tourism conference hosted by the Chamber at Rutgers University on Thursday, Congressman Frank Pallone said that "tremendous growth" was possible for the area's tourism trade through the Big 10 and the Superbowl.
"This is an industry that doesn't go away," Pallone said.
New Jersey is gearing up for what will be the first mass transit Superbowl in history, said Wayne Hasenbalg, President and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
The location of the big game and the sheer number of people expected to attend will prevent traditional tailgating and on-site parking, he said.
With 150,000 people expected from out-of-state to come be a part of the Superbowl festivities, and 400,000 from the region, mass transit is going to be key, he said.
"We will be ready" he said.
A $550 million impact on the state is predicted from the Superbowl alone, he said.
Rutgers University is available to businesses as a partner in bringing tourism money to the area, said Doug Fillis, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration.
For all the visiting teams who come to Rutgers for games, they need to be housed in hotels, fed, and transported. Their fans and parents require entertainment during the day, he said, and there are a lot of them.
Last year's football games averages 49,000 people in attendance per game, he said, and that number is expected to grow next season due to the Big 10, he said.