The Division of Gaming Enforcement has released a report showing a 12.6 percent decrease in casino revenues for the month of June. NJ Travel Industry Association Executive Director Joe Simonetta told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that while his organization isn’t happy with the numbers, he believes the issues in Atlantic City are being addressed and that a strong Fourth of July weekend will help boost tourism in the state.
“Atlantic City has some issues. I think those issues are being addressed by the Alliance, by the tourism district. We are not happy about the numbers obviously. There are things that are in play to try to reverse those numbers,” Simonetta said. “Atlantic City has been on a decline as we know and the advent of competition right across our borders makes us retool and rethink how we market Atlantic City.”
Simonetta said there is a bill waiting for Gov. Chris Christie’s signature that would eliminate the tax on tour bus operators coming across the border, which he believes will help Atlantic City. He said the tourism district has gotten great reviews about how nice and clean Atlantic City looks. “There was a recent poll that indicated that well over 50 percent of the people think Atlantic City is safe and clean. And that is an increasing number as opposed to a declining number,” he said.
Stories from the July 4 weekend have been positive and Simonetta said he believes it was a big hit. “The numbers both on the beach and with beach tag sales were up, up and down the 127-mile coast. The shops were ecstatic. The tourism marketing entities were very happy with the reports they were getting. And as you say, it’s anecdotal because it’s just right behind us. But by all indications, it was a slammer,” he said.
Simonetta said he is surprised at how quickly the recovery from Hurricane Sandy has gone for residents and businesses. “A large part of that credit for the return of the tourism and tourists to the Jersey Shore has to do with the $25 million Stronger than the Storm campaign coupled with the campaign that’s coming out of the Division of Travel and Tourism. All those things combined plus the resiliency of the citizens and the business owners up and down the coast,” he said. “We are actually surprised at the amount. We see somewhere in the area of 85 to 90 percent up and running.”
According to Simonetta, four counties — Cape May, Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth — contribute half of the $40 billion in tourism dollars for the state. He’s optimistic that the summer season will match last year’s revenues.
“We think we’re gonna be able to hit those numbers again. I’m not so sure that we’ll exceed them, but we think we’re gonna be able to hit them,” Simonetta said.