The Princeton-area tourism industry has clawed back the growth lost between 2007 and 2009 and has posted the fourth year in a row of steady gains. A recent study, funded by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, says the industry generated $1.9 billion in 2013.

The annual study, designed to measure the impact of tourism outreach efforts, credited the chamber’s own Princeton Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for promoting tourism in the region.

The numbers for 2013 represent a 3.6 percent increase from 2012 levels, as stated by “The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Princeton Region 2013 Results” study, released on June 9. Pre-recession spending was $1.7 billion in 2007.

“This healthy growth in tourism spending contributes significantly to our region’s prosperity,” said John Thurber, chairman of the board of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“We anticipate further growth in the coming years with the continued promotion of exciting events and attractions that will bring new visitors to Central New Jersey.”

“Results were somewhat mixed, with strong growth in the food and beverage sector, up 9.8 percent, and both shopping as well as recreation and entertainment sectors up 5.5 percent each,” said study author Brian Tyrrell, CEO of Travel and Tourism and Research and Training Associates. “Transportation was down slightly at 3.1 percent and traveler accommodations were largely flat.”

The tourism industry provided 35,800 tourism-related jobs in the Princeton region across multiple industries, an increase of 3.1 percent, or 1,100 more jobs from 2012. “These jobs created by the growing tourism industry represent vital employment opportunities for our residents and a stimulus to our economy,” Thurber said.

In 2013, the largest tourism spending within the Princeton region was in the food and beverage sector at $527.9 million, or 28 percent, and an increase from 2012’s $500.2 million.

“A flourishing day trip market helps support tourist spending on food and beverage,” Tyrrell said. “This is especially true in Trenton, where there is a large restaurant supply with 183 eating establishments and Princeton with its 113 restaurants.”

The next greatest area of spending was transportation at $402.5 million, or 21 percent, down slightly from $415.2 million in 2012.

“This slight decline is due to the temporary shut-down of the airport last year in order to make capital improvements and investments by the county,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “With Frontier Airlines’ rapid expansion of service at our newly renovated Trenton-Mercer Airport, countless numbers of people will have direct access to this region that they never had before and we expect to see long-term gains.”

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