June 11, 2014

An Upswing in Tourism Numbers For the Fourth Year in a Row

Tourism in the Princeton region is on the rise, according to a study announced Monday by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Princeton Region, 2013 Results” reveals that the jump of 3.6 percent between 2012 and 2013, including spending by visitors of more than $1.9 billion, is a continuation of an upward trend.

Brian Tyrrell, president and CEO of Travel and Tourism and Research and Training Associates and a professor at Stockton State College, headed the study for the second year in a row. It was commissioned by the Chamber and the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

At a press conference held Monday morning at Morven Museum, Chamber chairman John Thurber credited the CVB for its promotion of tourism and called the report “a very significant study measuring the economic impact of tourism in our region and its growth over the last year. The good news is that the impact is substantial and growing in our region and still outpacing the state’s averages.”

In addition to Princeton, the region in the study includes Cranbury, East Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Hightstown, Hopewell Borough and Township, Plainsboro, Robbinsville, Rocky Hill, Trenton, and West Windsor. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes focused on Trenton in his brief remarks, specifically citing the increased activity at Trenton-Mercer Airport, where Frontier Airlines has expanded its service over the past year. “Twelve airlines have come and gone, but Frontier is driving our economic engine,” he said, adding that a Cessna will be flying athletes into the airport “every five minutes” during the coming week’s Special Olympics USA Games.

A temporary shutdown of the airport last year for improvements resulted in a slight decline in transportation spending between 2013 and 2012. But Mr. Hughes and Mr. Tyrrell expect the numbers to climb in the future.

Mr. Tyrrell said there was growth of nearly 10 percent in the food and beverage sector, and shopping, recreation, and entertainment were up 5.5 percent each. Transportation was down slightly while traveler accommodations were largely flat. Occupancy tax collection as a whole in the region is slightly less than in the previous year.

Factors affecting the numbers included the temporary closing of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plainsboro for renovations, and a surge in hotel rentals during the last two months of 2012 after Hurricane Sandy, when rooms were rented by Red Cross workers, displaced homeowners, and FEMA workers.

Mayor Liz Lempert brought up the issue of tour buses that make brief stops in Princeton on their way from New York to Philadelphia, but don’t patronize shops, restaurants, or cultural sites in town. The buses often idle on Nassau Street while passengers use the bathrooms in the visitors’ center inside the Princeton University Store and snap photographs of Nassau Hall before leaving. Adam Perle, vice president of the Chamber, said the organization is working with the municipality to try and come up with a plan that is appealing to motor coach operators and will make them see Princeton as a destination rather than a stop along the way.