With the opening of Atlantic City’s luxury resort Revel and show-stopping performances by Beyoncé, the Jersey Shore has not seen this level of buzz in a long time.
Grace Hanlon, Exec. Director of the Division of Travel & Tourism, is still reveling over the gaming town’s recent spotlight, due in large part to megastar Beyoncé officially opening Revel. Hanlon was at the concert with her 16-year old son.
Revel, she says, lives up to the hype. “It’s like Dubai in Atlantic City. It is a five diamond resort. It is the real deal. It is so magnificent. We got on the elevator with Jay Z. It didn’t get better than that for a 16-year old.”
And a few notable concert attendees — First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters — were also at the sold-out concert.
“It was like a dream come true to have the First Lady and her children there so that people can see Atlantic City as more than just a gaming destination — that it is a family destination with a wonderful amusement park. They were very excited at Steel Pier and I have to say so was I.”
The number of visitors to the Jersey Shore in 2011 was up 14 percent from the previous year. When she heard the news, Hanlon said she almost fell out of her chair.
“We were up 12 million visitors last summer. That’s just unheard of. Our neighboring state [and] other tourism directors — they were hoping to maintain, maybe have a 1 to 2 percent increase.”
She credited Gov. Chris Christie for supporting the state’s tourism, making it possible for the department to have an aggressive marketing campaign including the ubiquitous DO AC ads.
Hanlon believes the state will maintain the increased numbers to its shore, saying that early bookings are already up 40 to 50 percent from this time last year. The warm weather has helped bring people out to the shore earlier than usual, but she also touts the customer service aspect of the shore’s attractions.
“You don’t make a 12 million jump if you’re not providing outstanding customer service at your hotels, at your restaurants, at your attractions and people are getting value for their vacations.”
Aside from the shore’s entertainment options, the beaches are still the main draw and that means water quality will be on the minds of many. Yesterday, Rutgers Marine Sciences Professor Michael Kennish told Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he would grade New Jersey beach water quality a “B.”
“We are second on the east coast in water quality,” said Hanlon. “Ninety-eight percent of our beaches were open for the entire summer last year. Given the amount of people we have traveling to New Jersey and on our beaches, that’s something to brag about.”
In addition to water quality, Hanlon said the state’s beach replenishment efforts, second only to Florida, have really paid off.
Citing the recent Bamboozle festival and Beyoncé at Revel, Hanlon predicts the summer of 2012 will be about music.
“I think it’s going to be a big a party summer and I think it’s going to be a lot of music and fun.”