by Wayne Parry, Associated Press | March 10, 2017
Tourism in New Jersey grew for the seventh straight year. The state's tourism industry generated $44.1 billion in spending in 2016, an increase of nearly 3 percent over the previous year, and 98 million people visited New Jersey last year, an increase of 3 percent, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said at a tourism conference Thursday in Atlantic City.
 
Guadagno, who is seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Chris Christie as governor, recounted various tourism activities in which she participated over the last year, including trips to beaches, mountains, farms and wineries. But one in particular stood out. "I got to see Ringo Starr!" Guadagno said. "It was fabulous!"
 
Guadagno said tourism accounts for 1 in every 10 jobs in New Jersey. When considering direct and indirect spending, tourism supports 517,000 jobs in the state.
 
Mercer (6 percent) and Passaic (5 percent) counties showed the largest percentage increases in tourism spending last year, Guadagno said.
 
Guadagno, who is New Jersey's first lieutenant governor, has announced the annual tourism figures each year. This year, she and others acknowledged the upcoming gubernatorial election.
 
"Let's make sure I'm back here next year to announce those numbers!" she told an audience of tourism promoters and providers.
 
Atlantic City Mayor Donald Guardian, who lost most of his power in a state takeover of the city last November, told the audience his city will do well in the next few years, "especially after this governor goes."
 
Christie has said the takeover was necessary to tame the city's finances and whittle down nearly a half-billion dollars' worth of debt because city officials were unable or unwilling to do so.
 
After her speech, Guadagno would not say whether she would continue the state takeover of Atlantic City if she becomes governor.
 
"Let's see where we are in 2018," she told the Associated Press. She also said the state-appointed overseer, former U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, aims "to try to get out of there as quickly as possible."