Officials are working to revitalize Atlantic City with a $100 million project that aims to make the icon a 21st century tourist magnet. Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority President Jeffrey Vasser is optimistic that the city will thrive as a destination spot. He spoke with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the future of Atlantic City.
Vasser has high hopes for the upcoming season. “We’re expecting a fantastic summer in Atlantic City and if you just look at some of the indicators through the first quarter I think everything is looking up, if you look at conventions, visits to our website, Facebook likes and then of course the new casinos and the new renovations that have been announced,” he said. “It’s a great time to be in Atlantic City for sure.”
Although gaming numbers are down, Vasser said they aren’t the only indicator of health in Atlantic City’s tourism industry. He said restaurant spending is up and hotel occupancy and visitation to attractions are doing well.
“So if you look at those other indicators, we are doing well as a destination resort, and the whole idea of where Atlantic City has been going for the past almost 10 years is to take the conversation away from gaming because we recognized years ago that if somebody simply wanted to pull a lever on a slot machine they’re not going to have to go very far from home,” he said. “So we need to give them a compelling reason to come to Atlantic City and that’s through retail, dining, entertainment, the spas, the golf and of course our world famous beach. That’s what’s going to differentiate Atlantic City from other gaming jurisdictions.”
Vasser said when private developers invest in Atlantic City, it shows him that they have faith in the city and “it’s not a doom and gloom economy, that it’s not a doom and gloom destination.” He also said it shows that Atlantic City isn’t just about gaming because while gambling numbers are down, visitation is strong and growing. According to Vasser, more and different attractions are added to Atlantic City to keep returning visitors intrigued and attract new ones.
Vasser said he believes the new advertising campaign, DO AC, is working. “It’s less than a month old. It certainly created a lot of conversation and I think what that’s going to do is again make Atlantic City more of a top of mind destination,” he said.
Facebook likes for Atlantic City’s page rose by 18,000 this April, compared to 1,200 in the same time period last year. “I can only attribute that to the success of DO AC,” Vasser said.
Rising gas prices could actually help Atlantic City’s tourism this summer, Vasser said, because people are more likely to stay closer to home. “The whole DO AC campaign is to let people know that there’s more to do than just gaming and to let them know that it’s very easy to come down and do it,” he said.