Tourism No. 3

When the factoid emerged this week that tourism is the Garden State’s third largest industry behind pharmaceuticals and chemicals, it just seemed so hilariously Jersey.

Of course it’s not so amusing that tourism has slipped to third place after running neck in neck with pharma for years – it would probably be better for a lot of people looking for jobs in the Garden State if even more vacationers visited our lovely beaches or gambled in our casinos. Tourism supports about 312,000 jobs in New Jersey, generating about $9.56 billion in wages.

Without the $9.2 billion tourism generates in federal, state, and local taxes, each household in the state would have to cough up with an additional $1,400 a year in taxes, officials said.

But nestled there in third place behind the industry that has long made New Jersey the butt of so many lazy comedian jokes seemed so funny to me.

Like a French patisserie selling bait and tackle. Or maybe a combo ice cream and muffler shop. Taxidermy and cheese anyone? French fries and Chinese acupressure, perhaps ?

Certainly these enterprises are small potatoes compared with New Jersey’s $38 billion a year tourism industry. And it was nice to hear that was a seven percent increase over the year before – a sign that an industry so crucial to the state’s economy is gaining ground.

About 80 million people visited New Jersey last year – a 14.6 increase over 2010 – with out-of- state tourists accounting for 64 percent of all tourism revenue.

So when Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced Thursday during the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association conference at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City that the state will invest $2.7 million in an “exciting” spring and summer marketing and advertising campaign unlike any other before it, it looks as though we might have a shot at convincing another 80 million people New Jersey has more to offer than chemicals …or Snookie.