tourism conference

Former Philadelphia Eagle, Ron Jaworski touts the state’s ability to bounce back following Hurricane Sandy on Thursday  at New Jersey Conference on Tourism at Golden Nugget, in Atlantic City.

Danny Drake

New Jersey attracts more couples and adults who don’t bring their children than nearby states, which makes one researcher wonder whether the state should put more money toward attracting those visitors.

“I wonder if the data tells us we should be highlighting that couples segment in marketing,” Adam Sacks, the founder of research firm Tourism Economics, said during a talk Thursday at the New Jersey Conference on Tourism in Atlantic City.

In New Jersey, 63 percent of overnight leisure travelers don’t bring their children, compared to 57 percent nationally, 60 percent in New York and 56 percent in Pennsylvania.

“New Jersey is a much more romantic place than some of your competitors,” said Sacks, adding the state should consider capitalizing on that segment.

Sacks was speaking at the conference one day after a study he helped lead was published by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism showing a record year in 2012 with $40 billion tallied in visitor spending, capital investment and general government funding of tourism.

While Hurricane Sandy led to increases in the lodging industry due to displaced residents and recovery workers living in hotels, the storm hurt casinos, some of which closed for up to a week, and entertainment and amusement venues that had to cancel events.

“The tourism industry in New Jersey is truly resilient,” Sacks said. “Those losses were real and, nevertheless, for the year, the industry grew 2.6 percent.”

As part of the study into visitors who come to New Jersey, researchers released a flurry of information, including that getaway weekends are the most popular reasons people visit New Jersey. But if Atlantic City were excluded, visiting friends and relatives would skyrocket to the top, according to a recently published study.

The state also attracts affluent visitors, particularly with the presence of Atlantic City.

“Forty percent of your visitors make $100,000,” Sacks said.

Nearly half of overnight leisure visitors to the state also head to the greater Atlantic City region — more so than any other part of the state — followed by 18 percent to the southern shore,

In other remarks made earlier in the day, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski touted the state’s ability to bounce back following Hurricane Sandy and said the area has already seen an incredible renaissance in the months following the damage.

“Who cares about that storm we had?” Jaworski said. “We’re going to let people know New Jersey is open for business.”

Jaworski, who also owns four South Jersey golf courses including Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Galloway Township, also spoke about impact golf tourism has on the state.

“Almost forgotten … are the great golf courses we have. There are unbelievable golf courses in the Atlantic City area,” he said.

Last year he was named the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association named Jaworski ambassador of golf after the association was awarded $250,000 from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to market the region’s greens. The association hopes to draw visitors who ordinarily flock to golf areas in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Ocean City, Md.

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