Trips & Trends
Reality Show Pumps Up “Jersey Shore” Tourism
Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
By Caroline Shin
The Jersey shore. It was just a place. Then, out of the blue, it became The Situation of choice for millions of pop culturalists around the world.
Now tourists are flocking to the small beach town of Seaside Heights, the venue for MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” in record numbers. According to the office of the borough of Seaside Heights, daily beach revenue from sales of beach passes at the end of July 2010 has increased 38% to $995,000, compared to a previously record-breaking July 2009. Sure, weather was a factor but the largest sales increase came from the north end of the boardwalk closest to the salacious jacuzzi-cum-house.
“The show’s been very good for us,” says Seaside Heights borough administrator and Jersey native John Camera. “Every shot of Seaside Heights–the pristine beaches, the aerial shots that we could never afford to put on our own–it’s really positive.”
Riding the wave
And as MTV currently tapes its third season at the shore, the town keeps riding its wave of new-found fame.
The Seaside Heights Business Improvement District, the local tourism association, recently launched a marketing campaign based on the show. The group’s old logo featured a beach umbrella with the tagline “Rediscover Seaside Heights, New Jersey.” And now, in the flashy style of the bronzed and the pouf-ed, it’s a neon yellow license plate with bold black font that shouts, “Seaside Heights / Exit 82 / Jersey Shore” from the fronts of t-shirts and souvenirs.
“All of the merchandise have the Jersey Shore logo on it,” says Maria Maruka, executive director of the Business Improvement District. “And that’s because of the show.”
The “Snooki” Sandwich
The Jersey Shore effect trickles from the beachside concession stands into the restaurants and hotels. Jimmy’s Breakfast serves “The Situation” omelet, a 3-egg medley of ham, sausage, bacon, pork roll and cheese, in homage to the beefy Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino. And John Gugliotta of Johnny G’s Pizza Factory offers up the “Snooki Sandwich,” slathered with Nutella spread, marshmallow fluff and peanut butter, then deep fried and topped with powdered sugar.
“The show’s been a great thing,” says Gugliotta, who has benefited from the “explosion” in Seaside’s tourism. It gave him a sweet marketing gimmick, and more importantly, “It put Seaside on the map.”
Mark Larsen, owner of the Surfside Motel, can attest to that statement. “We have people coming in from California, Kansas. You really didn’t get that in the Jersey Shore before.” Although he can’t calculate the exact numbers of guests who are directly influenced by the show, Larsen says that many of his new clientele ask him for directions to the MTV house.
But the Jersey Shore effect wasn’t initially welcomed. First, there was ignorance, then repugnance, and finally, acceptance on the part of Seaside’s residents.
When MTV was taping its debut season in August 2009, the locals didn’t know much about the show or the cast. Shortly after the show aired in December 2009, they criticized the cast’s party mantra and the show’s portrayal of Italian Americans and New Jersey natives. State lawmakers even demanded the show’s cancellation. However, in January 2010, when the season closed with an average audience of 2.7 million viewers per episode, according to MTV, opinions began to change.
“When we first got the shoot permit, my governing body thought it wouldn’t be promotional for Seaside Heights because it’s MTV and it thrives on controversy,” explains John Camera, the borough’s administrator. “But who was going to really see it or know about it? We didn’t expect it would gain so much notoriety.”
With the dollars and the tourists now gushing into Seaside Heights, Camera mentions another interesting ripple of the Jersey Shore effect. “We receive so many phone calls from inside and outside the country. And the people wanting to get glimpses of the cast members are families with 13 to 14-year-old kids asking their parents to bring them to the area.”
Thirteen year-old Atlanta, Ga. native and die-hard Jersey Shore fan Courtney Walston admits that she never knew about the New Jersey shore prior to the show, but now sees it as a place to “party, meet new people, have a great time.” She adds, “I would love to ask my mom to take me there.”
The “Jersey Shore” has certainly taken on a whole new meaning in the past year.
“Just saying Jersey Shore, people think that show,” says John Camera. “And that phrase works out great for us.”