SEA ISLE CITY — A giant billboard that greets motorists as they cross into New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel lets would-be visitors know that Sea Isle City is open for business.
“People saw that roller coaster in the water and thought it was the entire Jersey Shore,” Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio said of the image of the Jet Star roller coaster in the ocean off Seaside Heights following Hurricane Sandy.
Desiderio and members of the island’s business community decided they had to do something to overcome that perception, so they headed north.
The billboard, which costs $15,000 monthly, is being paid for by the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization, and is part of a partnership between the business community, tourism commission and the city.
Desiderio hasn’t driven north to see it, but he had a friend in Nutley drive by and take a picture.
“He called it ‘grand,’” Desiderio said.
The billboard featuring this season’s slogan, “We’re ready,” aims to draw visitors from New York and northern New Jersey, the first time the city has turned its advertising dollars to New York.
“We get calls from people asking are we going to be ready for summer. Although we suffered some damage to the Police Department and City Hall, we want people to know that the city is ready,” Desiderio said.
Normally, the city’s advertising focuses on the Philadelphia market, but following Hurricane Sandy towns such as Sea Isle City are looking to draw visitors who might otherwise have gone to places like Seaside Heights, which suffered significant damage.
The ad campaign was targeted to start at the end of January, when visitors are looking to book their summer vacations.
“We know that they may or may not be able to go to Monmouth or Ocean counties, but we wanted to give them the option of staying in Jersey,” Desiderio said. “We want to keep the tourist dollars in the state of New Jersey.”
Christopher Glancey, president of the city’s chamber of commerce, said an estimated 400,000 people travel through the tunnel each day, giving the city a wider audience.
The billboard features the city’s website, seaislecitynj.us, and the chamber will track visits to determine how successful the billboard is. If the numbers show growth, then the billboard will remain for another month.
Glancey said the chamber will host fundraisers to support the billboard’s placement. No city dollars are being used, Desiderio said.
Sea Isle City has a year-round population of about 2,300 people, but swells to about 50,000 on any given summer weekend, and Desiderio hopes those numbers grow with the help of the new ad campaign.
The campaign will also include radio ads and some cable television ads starting this month.
“Every $1 we spend (in advertising) brings back $68 in spending,” he said, noting a Cape May County tourism report.
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