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Princeton businesses talk Super Bowl tourism spike

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The 2014 Super Bowl is expected to bring some $550 million to the New York/New Jersey region in 2014, and with just 15 months until kickoff, local economic development agencies are working to ensure that a good portion of that economic activity comes to the Garden State.

Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of the Meadowlands Liberty Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he's hoping something like 40 percent — or a little more than $200 million — comes to New Jersey.

"Our role here is to capture and leverage as much economic impact as possible," he said. "I'm not sure what that number will be, but we want it to be as high as possible."

Kirkos spoke Tuesday to the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau's membership. He said he and other Super Bowl organizers are operating on the premise that the state's various tourism regions will benefit most if they collaborate together.

Adam Perle, vice president of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, which operates the convention and visitors bureau, said the Super Bowl provides an opportunity not only to attract tourists during the Super Bowl itself, but also to advertise the region.

"We understand this is an opportunity for the state of New Jersey, and in our case the Princeton region, to really show the world what we have to offer as a destination," he said.

Perle noted at least three networks — Fox, which is airing the Super Bowl; ESPN; and the NFL Network — will have weeks of programming leading up to the Super Bowl, as well as 12 hours of pregame coverage before the game itself.

Kevin Cuskley, vice president of philanthropy and New Jersey community relations for the Super Bowl host committee, said the group is hopeful some of that airtime will be devoted to highlighting the cultural and entertainment offerings of New Jersey.

Another part of that effort, he said, is getting people to spend more than the typical three-day weekend in the area when they come to the Super Bowl.

"There's obviously a lot to do in New York, so our marketing effort is to push it to not just a three-day event or a four-day event, but let's have things longer than that," he told the Princeton audience. "Let's do things for a week or 10 days in advance."

It goes without saying that New York will reap much of the economic benefits from the event, but Kirkos said the two teams competing in the game will be staying in New Jersey, likely attracting fans to follow suit. Visitors might also find cheaper hotels if they stay outside of the immediate metropolitan area. Princeton, for instance, is flush with hotel rooms and is on the Northeast Corridor rail line. Perle said Princeton's only about a 75-minute drive to MetLife Stadium on a typical Sunday game day.

Lori Rabon, chair of the Princeton convention and visitors bureau and general manager at the Nassau Inn, which hosted Tuesday's breakfast, said local business leaders are trying to be proactive.

"We really have to think about how are we going to market our region, because we are on the outside" of the immediate Meadowlands area, she said.

Kirkos encouraged Princeton businesses to become involved in the collaborative planning, and also to plan their own Super Bowl-themed events. But he said part of his goal in visiting Princeton Tuesday was to keep expectations in check.

"I don't know that thousands of visitors from out of state will come as far down as Princeton," he said. "That does not mean you can't still economically benefit from the Super Bowl. That does not mean you can't provide a Super Bowl experience for those that are in your community."

Kirkos said New Jersey's 14 destination marketing organizations shouldn't just target out-of-state tourists, but should use the Super Bowl publicity to reach local residents who may not know the full breadth of cultural and entertainment offerings.

"I think there's an opportunity for you to do some product awareness for people that are even in and around this area," he said.

Cuskley, of the host committee, also urged businesses to become involved with the Super Bowl directly. He said he's encouraged by how many New Jersey businesses already have stepped up to sponsor Super Bowl events, but he said the greatest need right now is volunteers.

The New York-New Jersey host committee hopes to get some 15,000 volunteers signed up to help out visitors in train and subway stations, at the airport, and at various events. So far, about 6,800 volunteers have signed up. Cuskley said he hopes businesses will pledge large groups of volunteers to help out or participate in charity events tied to the Super Bowl, such as blood drives.

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