After months of disappointing tourism and gaming numbers in Atlantic City during the peak summer season, the spike in tourist interest on the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority's Web, mobile and social media platforms in June and July finally translated to more visitors to the Boardwalk in August.
"In my mind, it's been a more pent-up demand thing, with people checking out our website in the past few months but saying, 'I can't get away until September, so as soon as I have the opportunity, I'm going to get to Atlantic City,' " said Jeff Vasser, president of the agency. "If you look at the numbers this month, we saw an increase in actual visitors to the welcome center and not as big of a growth in visits to the Web. I think we're only starting to convert Web visits to actual visitors … because we're anticipating the 'Do AC' campaign will keep Atlantic City on top of people's minds."
According to a report by the tourism agency, the number of car, bus and plane passengers arriving in Atlantic City in August grew more than 10 percent from the previous year, which Vasser said was reflected in the city's 12 casinos hosting a total of 64 public events throughout the month, compared to 33 in August 2011. As a result of increased tourism, several attractions like the Atlantic City Aquarium and Lucy the Elephant reported more than 10 percent increases in admissions and merchandise sales compared to the previous year.
Atlantic City's casinos also posted greater gaming revenues in August, winning a total of $313.9 million — a nearly 13 percent boost from August 2011 and the industry's first monthly increase since December.
August 2011, of course, was notable for Hurricane Irene, which forced the casinos to close for three days. Last month saw no such problems for the resort city.
Though Vasser said "it's fantastic that the gaming numbers were positive this month," he noted "no one knows if it will keep holding up, and it's not just the gaming numbers that defines Atlantic City now."
Though the city's tourism indicators traditionally decline leading into the fall, Vasser said the conventions, meetings and events lined up for September — like the AC Seafood Festival returning Sept. 15 after a multiyear hiatus — will capture different types of tourists and "generate lots of room nights mid-week and on the weekends."
"Ten years ago, we were a one-dimensional entertainment city. It would just be Engelbert Humperdinck rotating through the properties without any combination of music like hip hop and classic rock," Vasser said. "Now, one property has The Who while someone else has Flo Rida and another has Humperdinck. I think everybody is on board with the idea that entertainment is what can define Atlantic City as a destination, and we've really got something for everybody to make that happen. I think that's what will keep us moving through the fall."