Some of the most dramatic imagery following Hurricane Sandy, relative to the meetings industry, came from the New Jersey coastline. Photos of the wiped out Atlantic City boardwalk suggested massive infrastructure damage, portending a total collapse of business in the region.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It was a great visual for the media but it was entirely misleading,” says Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City CVA. “The area in the photo had already been closed because it was structurally unsound. Sandy’s devastation never hit the tourist zone.”
Vasser says another misperception is that Atlantic City is all about gaming. “There’s a new mindset,” he says. In the past, the priority was to keep people in the casinos, but now his office is highlighting the entire destination, especially the wealth of dining, entertainment and outdoor options.
“You can close off part of the Boardwalk for outdoor parties or sail along the Atlantic City beaches and skyline,” says Vasser. Deep-sea fishing, dolphin cruises, golf and clambakes are popular, and some groups plan bike rides on the Boardwalk.”
The value of the city revolves around good hotel pricing, accessibility and the overall layout with so many hotel rooms near the 500,000-sf Atlantic City Convention Center. The destination can host up to 60,000 attendees simultaneously, while the larger properties provide standalone convention-size space. The recently renovated Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa offers 70,000 sf of meeting space. The new 2,000-room Revel encompasses 160,000 sf of indoor function space, and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City’s new 200,000-sf convention center is slated to open in 2014.
Furthermore, for 2013, Atlantic City created a $1 million industry initiative offering subsidies to eligible programs booking a minimum of 1,000 room nights.
“Now is especially a good time to put together a huge room block,” says Vasser. “For groups that meet the criteria, that means significant savings.”