Sunny skies and pleasant temperatures welcomed visitors to Atlantic City for a last ‘hurrah’ as hotels, attractions and restaurants saw an increase in customers arriving earlier than ever to get a head start on a fantastic Labor Day holiday weekend in Atlantic City and the surrounding region.

Unaudited numbers released by the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) shows that more visitors are heading down the shore earlier for the holiday weekend. Cars passing through the Egg Harbor Toll Plaza increased 5.3 percent over last year and the Pleasantville Toll Plaza – Atlantic City’s biggest indicator –showed an increase of 6.1 percent when compared to the Thursday of last year’s holiday weekend. While Friday and Saturday numbers were decreased slightly when compared to last year (2.2 percent and 4.2 percent), Sunday showed an increase of 2.6 percent and Monday a 4.6 percent when compared to the same days in 2010.

“The estimated Atlantic City Expressway numbers provided by SJTA show that visitors are planning their Atlantic City vacations in advance,” said Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. “Not only are they arriving earlier in time to spend the weekend in Atlantic City, but they are staying more nights, which is good business for everyone.”

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According to representatives at Tropicana Casino & Resort, business “bounced back” from Hurricane Irene with hotel rooms sold out Friday through Sunday of the holiday weekend and Tropicana’s restaurants booked to capacity.

It was the same story at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, each selling out hotel rooms Friday through Sunday as well.

Resorts Casino Hotel also saw a great holiday weekend with the hotel sold out all three days, Friday-Sunday. Its Capriccio restaurant had close to double the covers when compared to last year. All of their shows were extremely well attended, including Night Fever & Abbamania, Cirque Polynesian, Believe- Divas in a Man’s World, and Club Piscopo. Prohibition nightclub was at maximum capacity throughout the weekend.

Non-casino hotels also saw a stellar holiday weekend. The Chelsea sold out its hotel rooms Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Its C5 nightclub was standing room only each night and restaurants - Chelsea Prime for dinner and Teplitzky’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner - also saw maximum covers. The hotel expects the trend to continue throughout September.

Courtyard by Marriott also experienced tremendous business Labor Day weekend. The hotel enjoyed a 96.9 percent occupancy rate over the three day weekend, considerably higher than 2010’s 69.9 percent. The hotel grew its average daily rate by nearly $19.00 ($202.50 this year, versus $183.90) and overall revenue grew by $41,900 year over year.

The Carisbrooke Inn in nearby Ventnor, NJ also enjoyed an increase in business. Compared to last year, Carisbrooke Inn showed a 30 percent increase in revenue for the Labor Day Holiday weekend. Plus, an increase of 29 percent in room nights booked which indicates a slight increase in average daily rate. The hotel’s occupancy rate for the weekend was at 95 percent, up from last year’s 94 percent.

Atlantic City’s Tony Boloney’s restaurant saw its business double on Friday and Saturday over the holiday weekend when compared to 2010. Also, Tony Boloney’s Mustache Mobile Food Truck was booked solid for private parties all week throughout the weekend in Longport, Ventnor and Ocean City, NJ.

Showing that the business climate has changed in Atlantic City, Ruth’s Chris Steak House saw a decrease in its cover count by 3 percent for the four days, but sales increased 4 percent – indicative of the summer season for the restaurant with sales on par or just shy of 2010 but cover counts down 10 percent.

Atlantic City attractions saw the crowds come out during 2011’s Labor Day weekend. The Atlantic City Aquarium, located in Historic Gardner’s Basin, experienced a 17 percent increase in attendance over the three day weekend – Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Attendance at Atlantic City’s Absecon Lighthouse was in line compared to last year’s customers – 87 customers on Friday, 117 on Saturday and 81 on Monday – with the notable exception of Sunday, which had 180 customers to New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, a 40 percent increase over last year. 

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