Atlantic City bucks national tourism trend


An increase in some key tourism indicators in Atlantic City in 2008 bucked negative national trends and demonstrated that US travelers are seeking nearby, domestic vacation destinations that offer a full range of leisure experiences over their counterparts in farther reaches of the country and overseas. According to the United States Travel Association (USTA), rail travel on Amtrak was down by 1.2 percent as compared to the year before. Room demand, meanwhile, sank 3.6 percent overall across the nation.

In stark contrast to these figures, recently released 2008 statistics showed increases in Atlantic City across the same categories. Rail arrivals increased more than 12 percent, according to the South Jersey Transportation Authority. The number of occupied room nights at the destination’s 11 casino hotels also rose 4.4 percent, according to the Casino Control Commission. Similarly, from the group business standpoint, a recent report released by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) shows the number of occupied room nights by attendees to conventions and meetings at the Atlantic City Convention Center rose by 21 percent in the first quarter of 2009 over the same period the year prior. Nearly 50 percent more delegates attended conventions, trade shows, and meetings and overall spending for these events showed an increase of 11 percent during the first quarter.

“It’s no secret that national tourism numbers are on the decline due to the weak economy,” said Jeff Vasser, president of the ACCVA. “Destinations such as Atlantic City that are reporting positive news, however, are proving that consumers are ready and willing to make alternative plans instead of forgoing their much-deserved vacation altogether. The 2008 numbers showed that more and more travelers and meeting planners were discovering the ease and affordability of Atlantic City.”

Atlantic City is more accessible than ever in 2009 due to new air and rail travel services from New York City, Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando. The deluxe ACES train serving Amtrak’s Penn Station direct to Atlantic City made its debut in February 2009 and has added to the appeal of the destination as a quick weekend getaway for New Yorkers. New air lift via Spirit Airlines non-stop to Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) has also been added. For Atlanta, Orlando and connecting markets throughout the south, AirTran Airways is launching non-stop service beginning on June 11 and 12, respectively.

Atlantic City has made major strides in diversifying its product as much more than a gaming destination, having undergone US$1.5 billion in new investments within the past year alone. These include new hotel and resort properties, many with world-class spas, in addition to expansive boutique and outlet shopping areas. The shore resort is an emerging culinary destination with a diverse dining landscape that offers everything from classic New Jersey coastal favorites to celebrity chef restaurants. Some of the nation’s premier entertainers come through Boardwalk Hall, which will host Fleetwood Mac, the American Idols Live Tour, and Jimmy Buffett among others this summer. Another significant difference from its east coast competitors is the wealth of outdoor recreation available in Atlantic City with more than 25 golf courses nearby and miles of free clean beaches.