Eighteen months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Jersey shore, coastal counties agree it is time to stop mentioning the storm in their marketing campaigns.
The issue: South Jersey’s shore towns weren’t all affected equally. Ocean County, the hardest hit of Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties, benefited from the marketing. But Cape May County, which was barely touched, was stigmatized by mere mention of Sandy.
Atlantic County meanwhile, relied more heavily on Atlantic City’s “DO AC” campaign.
So, this summer, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority is ready to move on from the storm, too.
This summer season the authority will abandon last year’s Stronger than the Storm tourism campaign for an approach dubbed New Jersey Going Strong.
Their new message: “New Jersey knows what it’s like to be stronger than the storm. While there is still work to be done, we’re going strong and ready for summer.”
“People here are ready to move on and to plan for the season, and that’s good,” said Lori Pepenella, destination marketing director for the Long Beach Island Region at the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce. “We want people looking at us as they always did, as a place to make memories and have a good time.”
Earlier this year, Pepenella said, the chamber was ready to shake Hurricane Sandy’s shadow, focus on moving beyond the storm and touting “the new normal.”
A commercial that will begin airing this month was filmed last week in Surf City on Long Beach Island.
The Economic Development Authority will use $1.3 million in federal funding left over from the $25 million allocated for last year’s Stronger than the Storm Campaign, said Virginia Pellerin, authority spokeswoman.
The state’s broadcast media campaign launched April 7, following a digital media campaign that began in mid-March.
Television ads in English and Spanish are appearing in the greater New York and Philadelphia markets on major networks including CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox, as well as cable channels including Bravo, Lifetime, Telemundo, Univision, TLC, Oxygen and USA.
The state is seeking an additional $5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand the campaign through the summer, Pellerin said.
“Our goal this year is to highlight the coastal counties by focusing on most Sandy-impacted towns and iconic shore images from Monmouth down through Cape May,” she said.
For a successful summer season in Cape May County it is a positive move for the state to drop the word “storm” from its marketing campaign, said Diane Wieland, tourism director for the Cape May County Department of Tourism.
Last summer, tourist destinations in Cape May County suffered because of the overwhelming perception that the entire Jersey Shore was devastated after Hurricane Sandy, Wieland said.
While Ocean City and Sea Isle City suffered some storm damage, Cape May County as a whole did not experience the damage to the extent of other destinations to the north, Wieland said.
“The problem is that the farther you get away from the Jersey Shore the more people think the Jersey Shore is all of us and we’re not broken up into different regions. When people saw a roller coaster in the ocean they thought that was the place they traveled to,” she said.
The Jersey shore is a brotherhood of beaches, but Cape May County generates about 50 percent of the state’s tourism revenue, while the other 50 percent comes from Ocean, Atlantic and Monmouth counties, she said.
Last June, Cape May County saw a loss of more than $94,000 in occupancy tax and two very slow quarters, she said. But by the middle of July, the county saw an increase in overnight stays, she said.
In July, six weeks after the Stronger than the Storm campaign launched, the loss of occupancy tax revenue was cut in half, and August, September and October were record months for the county, she said.
Jeff Guaracino, chief strategy officer at the Atlantic City Alliance — home of the “DO AC” campaign — said last summer, tourism at the shore dropped about 5 percent and was bad news for Atlantic City and every shore town.
“A.C. benefits when the entire Jersey shore is filled with visitors and tourists. People staying on LBI or Seaside, or on vacation in Ocean City with their families, these are daytrippers and are feeders into Atlantic City,” he said.
It is a smart transition to the 2014 summer season for the state to drop the word “storm” from its campaign, Guaracino said.
“People have a short memory, particularly visitors that were not directly impacted by the storm, so it’s smart marketing to de-emphasize the impact of the storm. The further you get out from the event, visitors will forget about it,” he said.
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