When United Airlines began nonstop service connecting Chicago and Houston to Atlantic City International Airport last week, there was much rejoicing in the struggling resort town.
State and local officials and politicians piled in for the celebration, touting the potential economic benefits of opening up the area to two of the country's most populous cities.
The important work, however, begins this week as the nonprofit Atlantic City Alliance and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) begin the task of getting the word out.
Through a partnership, the entities announced last week that they would be launching a multifaceted marketing initiative aimed at attracting tourists from those cities.
The campaign, which includes $1 million in advertising, will feature weeks of radio buys, outdoor ads, public displays and events in both markets.
For ACA President Liza Cartmell, whose organization is the resort's marketing arm, United's new service isn't just a few more flights in and out of the region. It's an opportunity to showcase Atlantic City to a whole new market.
"This opens up really the whole country to us," Cartmell said.
Cartmell estimates 91 percent of all current visitors are arriving by car. By opening up the airport to daily visitors from Chicago and Houston — United's two biggest hubs — Atlantic City now has the opportunity to capture a part of the national market that "for years … has gone to Las Vegas," Cartmell said.
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri agrees that, between the ad campaign and United's new service offerings, Atlantic City will now have a shot at appealing to a whole new market.
"The ad campaign creates awareness of Atlantic City as a vacation option for potential visitors who are outside of our normal Northeast corridor outreach," Palmieri said. "We think the new air service will serve a pent-up demand, and it gives us an opportunity to build our brand with a new group of visitors."
It's important to note that the ad campaign won't just sell Atlantic City as a gaming alternative to Las Vegas, Cartmell said. Instead, much of the focus will be placed on the city's beach, dining, shopping and entertainment options.
It's a side of Atlantic City that many outside the region don't often think of, she said.
"Clearly, from a destination perspective, we have an opportunity to do a lot of educating on the amenities that are here," Cartmell said.
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United Airlines' daily nonstop service to AC
From Chicago, United's flight to Atlantic City will depart at 8:10 a.m. daily, arriving at 11:07 a.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 11:52 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 1:08 p.m.
From Houston, United's flight to Atlantic City will depart at 7 p.m. daily, arriving at 11:10 p.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 6 a.m. and arrive in Houston at 8:40 a.m.