Cape May County will expand its marketing reach next year with plans to draw new visitors from as far away as Ohio, Virginia and Quebec to the Jersey Cape.

“We look at it like the longer they’re going to drive, the longer they’re going to stay,” said Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland.

Some of this advertising will be done in places never touched before by the county and local tourism commissions, while others are areas getting a renewed focus after efforts were scaled back during the depths of the recent recession.

Ongoing work to explain that South Jersey fared relatively well during Hurricane Sandy has pushed up the timing of some advertising, so potential tourists in Pittsburgh and Cleveland could be seeing promotions as soon as Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s not just that we’re open now, but that we’re intact and healthy and ready for next year,” said John Cooke, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May.

Tourism officials are also better at targeting prospective visitors through online search analytics, surveys of hotel and motel owners and social media and email databases.

In Ocean City, for example, an online contest to win a free week in a beach house with thousands of dollars in gifts and spending money generated more than 56,000 entries. Officials can use the information the entrants provided to see where there is interest in the resort and reach out to those people in the future.

Nick Marotta, chairman of the city’s tourism development commission and a real estate agent with Prudential, Fox & Roach, said targeting people outside the traditional markets is important, if only a small supplement to the total amount of visitors.

“First and foremost, we will never get away from our primary market, the greater Philadelphia market,” he said.

Tourism had a $5.1 billion economic impact in Cape May County during 2011, part of the $38 billion impact statewide. About 80 percent of all visitors come from elsewhere in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

The majority of the rest live within driving distance, which for people in western Pennsylvania, northern Virginia and Canada is a seven- to nine-hour drive. But with the economy steadily improving, marketers are hoping more people are willing to make the trip.

Wieland said the county will reach farther north than it ever has, extending marketing into northern Quebec to build on a strong base of Canadian visitors who frequent Cape May each summer.

She also said they will be trying to regain tourists from places such as Pittsburgh who did not visit in recent years because of gas prices and financial concerns from the poor economy.

“The economy took a toll on our drive markets,” Wieland said. “We’re going to try and go back in and try and reach out to (those markets).

That was made partly possible through a $141,000 destination marketing organization grant, one of 14 totaling $1.4 million the state awarded in October. It went specifically to the Southern Shore Regional Tourism Organization, which also encompasses Cumberland County.

The Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority received $141,000 and $74,835 grants, respectively.

Wieland said the grant doubles the amount normally spent on outside marketing, and it will go toward brochures, guidebooks and both print and online advertising.

With these plans being developed this time of year, most promotional campaigns will begin in the winter and early spring. Wieland said there is already a long list of travel shows she will be attending, starting in January.

Contact Lee Procida:

609-463-6712

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