Summit brings Shore towns together to attract visitors
It's nothing new for an organization such as the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor's Authority, for instance, to note attractions in Cumberland and Cape May counties in their marketing literature. (The ACCVA's recent 12-page advertisement in USA Today mentioned a few Cape May County attractions.) However, the new alliance will allow for the Jersey Shore to have a louder voice to be heard in the tri-state area and beyond, say its proponents.
"We're hoping that the outcome of the branding of the Shore will entice people in the tri-state area who maybe have never experienced the Shore to come down and try a shore community," says Joann DelVescio, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a strong believer in the need to bring fresh faces to the Shore. "When you look at the Ohio market ... I mean we're the closest beaches to that Ohio market. It's a whole market for us to go after."
However, as Bashaw points out, before the Jersey Shore can market itself effectively, it needs to get its product "up to snuff."
"We can't just market," says Bashaw. "We also have to improve our product."
Which is why the CRDA is bringing in a former head of the Disney Institute to speak at the next summit session. Building off of the "Courtesy is Complimentary" campaign created by Atlantic County last year, Bashaw says bringing in Doug Lipp should help the Jersey Shore hospitality industry work collectively towards a friendlier, more welcoming unit. Additionally, Lipp's services have been retained for a week in June.
"He'll be available to different communities to bring their public and private sector employees together for a two-hour training session on the importance of really excellent customer service," explains Bashaw. "We think that just setting that tone at the beginning of our busy summer season will be a very useful thing."
Aside from Lipp's appearance, a task force will be announced at the next summit session, formed to address the issue of development pressures that Shore towns such as Wildwood Crest face up and down the New Jersey coastline. Another way to improve the "product" of the Jersey Shore, according to Bashaw, is to make sure that the things that make the Shore towns unique are preserved.
"Each town has a different personality," says Bashaw. "Even to some extent different demographics. But the one thing that they all have are salt water taffy and mini golf and arcades and promenades along the beach. There's a Shore-ness quality that makes this a unique and wonderful destination. And we want to make sure that with development pressures as they are and the demand for second homes as they are, that we don't lose sight of the fact of what these unique qualities are ... It's essential to our brand to preserve that Shore-ness quotient in each of our Shore communities."
But, while families that have been vacationing at the Jersey Shore for well over a century need nothing more than the sand, ocean waves and funnel cake, Bashaw says a balance needs to be struck with regard to attracting new visitors with new attractions and experiences. One new experience that is being planned would put a national spotlight on the unique qualities of the various Jersey Shore towns and be an all-inclusive event to rival those of other well-established tourist destinations.
"Charleston, South Carolina has their Spoleto Festival, New Orleans has its jazz festival," says Bashaw. "There are certain events that have national stature that add some notoriety to certain destinations. So we are going to announce a partnership with the World Cycling Organization to create a Tour de Shore that's going to be a week-long event in May of 2006 that we expect to be an annual event. We think this could be a really wonderful way to showcase our Shore communities just before peak season and showcase New Jersey as a national destination."
Not only would such an event bring the Jersey Shore into the national spotlight, it would put guests into the mom-and-pop bed and breakfasts up and down the coast, a segment of the tourism industry that depends on unique marketing strategies in order to get the word out about their establishments to potential out-of-state customers. As Monmouth County tourism representative Jeanne DeYoung points out, the whole idea of collectively marketing the region will help the mom and pop businesses.
"It's going to help the smaller mom-and-pop venues, of which there are a lot in Monmouth and Ocean counties," says DeYoung, "and most likely in the other counties, too. It's going to enable them to participate in marketing."
But the financial benefits of a strong Jersey Shore brand would be felt all over the state. And that would be one important legacy of the Summit, according to Bashaw.
"If the State, if the legislature, if the citizenry of the state understands the importance of tourism to the state economy, and understands that the Shore is really 75 percent of the state's tourism pie, and that we protect our asset, and we try to harness that asset to be the economic engine that it can be for the state, that's one important legacy," he says.
"The other legacy that I think is important is to make sure that we get our heads out of our parochial holes and that we understand that by working together and collaboratively that the whole is really greater than the sum of the parts."
"It's smart," adds Byrne. "It's like being on Survivor and creating alliances."
Only this time, summit participants hope, no one on the Jersey Shore will get kicked off the island.
The Summit on the Shore - Session Three will be held on Wednesday, April 20 at 1:30pm in the Xanadu Theater at Trump Taj Mahal. The session will be followed by opening reception for the Governor's Conference on Tourism on the Steel Pier. The summit is free to attend, but you must pre-register. Call 347-6305 or visit Summitontheshore.com.
Over 1,500 bicyclists will ride for charity in the silver anniversary of the Tour de Shore, including a 204-person team called the Wheels of Justice founded by a Pa. district attorney.
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