Courtesy Jerde Partnership
Tourism has been the buzz word in the Atlantic City region now for several years — in fact, it always was — especially with regard to the slumping casino revenues, due in part, to competition sprouting up in neighboring states.
First the rise of the airplane (pun intended) made it easier for families — mostly middle class — to forgo A.C. vacays and set off for places like Florida and Las Vegas or wherever they wanted, leading to a decline in the “World’s Playground” status as one of the top tourist destination’s in the country for most of the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s.
Then, after states near New Jersey’s border — such as New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware — passed legalized gambling bills and started building casinos, etc., Atlantic City’s early 2000’s gaming renaissance, in conjunction with a restaurant and nightclub revolution, and spurred by the opening of the game-changing Borgata in 2003, the 150-year-old resort town was hit hard by the economic collapse of recent years.
Not only did several expected mega-projects (MGM, Bader Field, Bashaw-Barr, etc.) get the kibosh, but casino revenue saw month-to-month revenue declines and it was determined — thankfully — that the city needed a new game plan. Additionally, according the Atlantic City Convention & Authority (ACCVA), annual visit trips to Atlantic City fell from 33.7 million in 1999 to 28.5 million in 2011.
A.C. no longer had a monopoly on the gaming market in the Northeast.
In 2012, the buzz word is tourism still, but with new excitement and expectations.
With the state entity Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) passing a thoroughly researched and considered master plan for a new “tourism district” in Atlantic City this past February — an order given by Gov. Chris Christie in July 2010 — and the casinos getting behind a new non-profit agency — the Atlantic City Alliance (ACA) — to re-brand and market the city anew, and a new mega-resort, Revel, opening on the north-end of the Boardwalk in April, in addition for several other plans for the city to make it the world-class destination for tourists (a Vegas of the East), including a planned multimillion dollar revitalization of the Steel Pier, things are looking brighter for tourism in New Jersey than they have in several years — even despite the attention (positive or negative) of the MTV hit show Jersey Shore.
Founded in 2011, the ACA, headed up by former Aramark executive Liza Cartmell, has chosen one of the top independent New York-based public relations firms, Edelman, to address “some of Atlantic City’s challenges, while still highlighting all of the factors that make the city so great.”
The ACA has also brought in advertising firm Euro RSCG to handle the city’s new ad campaign, which is expected to be put into effect in April.
Starting today (March 14) at the Golden Nugget, the New Jersey Conference on Tourism will have a rekindled purpose and spirit. The annual conference in Atlantic City (March 14-16), put on by the New Jersey Travel Industry Association, New Jersey Department of Tourism, the ACCVA, and other sponsors, will include a plethora of speakers, luncheons, meetings and presentations. (See a full list here.)
Hopefully, this will all lead somewhere positive for Atlantic City, a city that has also been in the international spotlight via the hit HBO show Boardwalk Empire.
If only Nucky was still around.
Well, at least the Steel Pier is — minus the Diving Horse.
— Jeff Schwachter
SEE: Renderings of Future of Atlantic City Boardwalk and more.