BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Hospitality Professor Says Calendar to Blame for Sluggish AC Revenues in July

July revenues for Atlantic City have been released, showing gaming numbers down almost 10 percent from last year. General tourism indicators weren’t that strong either. Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies Professor Brian Tyrrell at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that July 2012 put Atlantic City at a disadvantage over last year with the way the days fell, but he also said he has seen positive signs of a turnaround.

Tyrrell said this July had one less Friday and one less Saturday than July 2011, equaling almost a 20 percent reduction in weekend days, Atlantic City’s largest revenue producers. July 4, 2012 also fell on a Wednesday compared to 2011 when it was a Monday, which was much easier for people to travel to Atlantic City for a long weekend. In addition to the inconvenience of the holiday mid-week, Tyrrell said prior to July 4, strong storms knocked out power to portions of Atlantic County, which could have limited travel.

He said analysis needs to be made over a longer period for the big picture. “I think just looking at the one month would be a bit of a mistake,” he said. “There’s a five-year plan to turn things around here in Atlantic City.”

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Tyrrell said he has seen evidence that the plan has been put into place. Because of increased competition for gambling dollars, Tyrrell said efforts have changed to focus on the unique aspects of Atlantic City, including the beach, the boardwalk, restaurants, entertainment and shopping. He said the Atlantic City Alliance is aware of the shift and has started pushing activities beyond the casinos.

Some progress has been made on the hotel front, according to Tyrrell. “We can judge room revenue by the state’s hotel occupancy tax. When I look at the state’s hotel occupancy tax, numbers are out through May of 2012. They’re up 12.5 percent on the year compared to the period through May of 2011,” he said. “And that includes the month of May being up 22 percent over the prior year.”

Getting people to come stay in Atlantic City and spend money on activities other than gaming is essential to the area’s survival. Tyrrell said for 30 years, Atlantic City was the only place for gambling on the East Coast so it catered to the gaming customer. Now those customers are likely to find more convenient gambling locations.

“With that individual finding some convenience gambling options more attractive for them, we’re going to have to expand who it is that we market Atlantic City to, who we develop products and services for in Atlantic City,” Tyrrell said. And I think the early numbers — some of the non-gaming metric numbers — are showing there’s some evidence that that is beginning to take hold.”