While many New Jersey shore towns still struggle to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Atlantic City’s expansive year-round resorts, restaurants, entertainment venues and convention facilities experienced minimum disruption and were able to quickly return to business. January, which was largely anticipated to be a negative business month throughout the northeast, saw Atlantic City’s non-gaming business sectors return to essentially the same level last January.
Convention business stabilized in January, with the same number of conventions, trade shows and meetings at the Atlantic City Convention Center in January, while the individual hotel properties hosted just one fewer such event. The Convention Center shows attracted nearly twice as many delegates than last January’s shows, though, with more than 40,000 people in attendance, who generated nearly $19.5 million in delegate spending, a 60% increase over last January.
Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City’s main event arena, also hosted the same number of events as last January.
The visitor information centers operated by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) welcomed 6,659 guests who stopped for information, a 10% increase over last January, and the visitor information experts at the centers responded to approximately the same number of phone and email inquiries as the previous year.
However, more people than ever opted to receive regular updates about Atlantic City through social media, as more than 405,000 new Facebook users “liked” the Atlantic City Facebook site this January, as opposed to just 776 “likes” in January 2012. Online requests for visitor guides also spiked, with 2,316 requests in January 2013, an increase of 15% from last January.
According to Jeff Vasser, president of the ACCVA, “It’s natural that the public is curious to know how Atlantic City fared during the hurricane, and the New Year holiday gave them a good opportunity to see for themselves that our famous Boardwalk is still intact and our resorts are fully operational. We expect that interest to remain high as more people discover all of our non-gaming amenities.”
Unaudited figures from the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) report a 21.02% decrease in scheduled air service deplanements compared to last January, balanced by a 33.85% increase in domestic charter deplanements. Traffic counts for the Atlantic City Expressway’s Pleasantville toll plaza – the closest to Atlantic City – was 7.8% lower than last January’s traffic.
“We know our showrooms, nightclubs, parties and hotel rooms were packed for New Years Eve, and weekend business has remained strong,” Vasser said. “Traffic counts may be lower, but our visitors are staying longer and enjoying all of the resort amenities we offer as they discover how much there is to do in Atlantic City. In coming months, we will be able to include additional statistics to gauge activity in the retail and dining sectors to provide a more robust picture of the city’s non-gaming business activity.”
Spectrum Gaming Group provides the following additional independent insight to factors impacting January’s business climate:
“The following factors may have impacted drive-in visitation and tourism metrics related to Atlantic City in January 2013:
· On a year-over-year calendar day basis, January 2013 was less favorable versus the same month in the prior year, as January this year contained 12 “weekend” days (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays), while January 2012 contained 13 such days, one additional Sunday.
· According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature for January 2013 reported at Atlantic City was 35.1 degrees Fahrenheit, which was colder than January of last year (at 39.2 degrees). Additionally, there was an extreme cold spell over the last month where the maximum daily temperature did not exceed 32 degrees, while there were only two such days in all of January last year. There were no major snowstorms, nor considerable snow amounts, in January of either year.
· According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average price for a gallon of gas in the region for January 2013 was 2.1 percent higher versus January 2012 ($3.60 vs. $3.52 per gallon). However, the average gas price in January 2013 was comparable to the prior month (December 2012) and was lower than gas prices spanning the four months between August and November 2012.
The figures quoted above and others are available in the monthly Tourism Barometer, available online athttp://www.doatlanticcity.com/about/stats.aspx.