New Jersey visitors drove more than $40 billion in tourism expenditures in 2014, according to a report “The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Princeton Region 2014 Results” by Brian J. Tyrrell, CEO of Travel and Tourism Research and Training Associates.

Tyrrell will present findings from his report at the first annual “Toast to Tourism Awards” Breakfast on Tuesday, September 15, from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Grounds For Sculpture, 80 Sculptors Way, East Gallery, Hamilton. Sponsored by the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (a program of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce), the event addresses tourism’s impact on New Jersey business owners and workers, as well as residents and visitors with a penchant for music, art, nature, history, sports or other forms of recreation. Tickets: $70, $50 for members. Register by phone 609-924-1776 or from the events page at www.princetonchamber.org.

Four unique awards will be presented to individuals: The “Salute to Service Award” honoring Phyllis Oppenheimer of the New Jersey State Department of Travel and Tourism the industry; the “Tribute to Tourism Award” honoring Trenton Thunder; and the “Praise for Performance Award” honoring two individuals: Sivian Ben-Gad of the Peacock Inn and Larry Ciccione of the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal. There will also be a flight voucher giveaway from Frontier Airlines.

Tyrrell `s report focuses on the positive outcomes resulting from the work of the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (PRCVB) whose goal is to drive tourism and increase economic growth.

Established in 2004, the PRCVB received the first-of-its-kind grant designating the partnership as the state’s official destination marketing organization (DMO) for the Princeton Region in 2008. Providing funding for 14 DMOs statewide, the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism awarded more than $1.5 million in grant money in 2014. The money awarded to the Princeton region landed in about the middle at $112,000 with the highest amount at $140,000 given to the Southern Shore Regional area, and the lowest, $82,000 given to Hudson County.

The Princeton region includes all of the municipalities in Mercer County and also includes three municipalities in Somerset County: Rocky Hill, Montgomery, and Kingston; and three in Middlesex: Plainsboro, Cranbury, and South Brunswick.

Drawing information from publicly available material, the report’s conclusions are based on data from several sources including the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, the New Jersey Division of Taxation, the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the United States Census Bureau.

In 2014, the highest ranking industry in the Princeton region was food and beverage, $553 million(27 percent); followed by transportation, $413 million (21 percent); shopping, $355 million(18 percent); recreation, $352 (17 percent); and traveler accommodation, $340 million, (about 17 percent).

Tyrrell highlights several attractions in the greater Princeton area that contribute to the region as a tourism destination offering art, music, sports, history, nature and recreation:

Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) — offering a restorative connection between art and nature. In the spring of 2014, GFS opened a new Welcome Center including gallery and event space, an auditorium, the French-inspired Van Gogh Cafe, a new museum shop and more. The Grounds features works by Seward Johnson, “The Retrospective,” and other artists. In May of 2014 alone, the park welcomed more than 30,000 guests. In the past year, GFS has seen a 40 percent increase in its Membership program.

Princeton University Art Museum — regarded as one of the leading university museums in the country with its origins in the 1750s. Today, collections include over 92,000 works of art and hosts more than 120,000 visitors each year. Admission to the museum is free.

Morven Museum and Garden — the Ancestral home of Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence with his wife and poet, Annis Boudinot Stockton. Now a museum, Morven attracts over 12,000 visitors annually.

Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts — the home of the Westminster Symphonic Choir which performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors in New York and Philadelphia. The Westminster Choir is the chorus-in residence for the renowned Spoleto Festival USA. The college presents more than 150 performances throughout the greater Princeton region to audiences totaling more than 25,000 attendees annually.

Trenton Thunder — the longest running professional baseball team in New Jersey. More than 8.1 million fans have attended Trenton Thunder games since Arm & Hammer Park opened in 1994.

Mercer Lake — selected to host the collegiate rowing championship for men and a lightweight category for women from 2014 through 2016. The lake is home to the official US Olympic training site.

Plainsboro Preserve and Audubon Society, NJ — 1,000 acres of protected land with fields, woods, marshes, and 5 miles of trails, surrounding a 55 acre lake. It also has a nature center, a library and bird watching stations and houses live animals.

Mercer County Park — over 2,500 acres in areas of West Windsor, Hamilton, and Lawrence. In a typical year, the park attracts more than 550,000 athletes, participants and users as well as more than 600,000 spectators.

Overall, Tyrrell’s report shows that the Princeton region’s tourism industry mirrored or outpaced state averages in terms of positive growth over the past four years. On a national level, the Princeton region kept pace with other states.

Tyrrell became interested in tourism and marketing in his teens gaining his first experience working at a hotel and a country club when he was in high school. His family moved frequently because of his father’s work as a psychologist who provided counseling in the Catholic Church. His mother held nursing and administration positions in the health care industry.

In addition to running his own research and training business, Tyrrell is an associate professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the School of Business at Stockton University. He is the vice president for the New Jersey Travel Industry Association and holds a doctoral degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Purdue University. Tyrrell serves on town Council in Galloway Township, where he lives with his wife and three daughters.

Today, the Princeton region is a year-round tourism destination, says Tyrrell, thanks to the ongoing efforts and successes of PRCVB, area businesses, and governments.

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