Data from the South Jersey Transporation Authority suggests that visits to Atlantic City declined in 2017. Compared to the previous year, visits decreased by about 1.2 percent to approximately 24.1 million.
Considering Atlantic City has encountered numerous challenges over the past few years, a relatively flat visit-trip number isn’t that bad. It also sets the stage for what will likely be a positive trend for 2018.
Factors affecting Atlantic City visitation
It’s no surprise Atlantic City has been through its share of struggles financially. It’s not unrealistic to think those struggles, along with failing casinos and businesses, deterred visits.
The resorts go out of their way to make it easy for players to come and spend their money. To do that, they offer free charter bus services to residents in surrounding areas. But even a free ride wasn’t incentive enough to make the trip. The SJTA reported a decline of about 103,000 passengers arriving by bus.
It is important to note that a “visit-trip” to Atlantic City doesn’t necessarily equate to tourist. A visit-trip counts anyone arriving in Atlantic City, tourist, employee or resident.
In October of 2016, Trump Taj Mahal closed its doors leading to around 3,000 layoffs. Those layoffs, along with the closing of other businesses, undoubtedly impacted visit-trips in 2017.
How Hard Rock AC and Ocean Resort Casino will impact visits in 2018
The two new casinos are hiring about 5,500 employees, not all of whom live inside the city limits. Employees that travel to the city for work count as a visit-trip.
The excitement level in Atlantic City is at an all-time high. The openings of the brand new properties scheduled for sometime this summer have people talking. Hard Rock AC, where renovations to the former Trump Taj Mahal are currently underway, is bringing over 200 nights of live music to it’s newly renovated Hard Rock Live at the Etess Arena.
Ocean Resort Casino is currently renovating and rebranding Revel, and is hoping the Supreme Court decision in Christie vs. NCAA opens up the possibility of a brand-new, state-of-the-art sportsbook.
Both properties have invested millions into renovating and rebranding their properties. The curiosity factor alone will bring people to Atlantic City.
With new competition in town, it is safe to assume the existing casinos will be marketing heavily to current and potential new customers to avoid losing their share of gaming and other revenues.
For the reasons above, there is a strong possibility that Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino will be responsible for bringing visitors back to Atlantic City.
A positive outlook for Atlantic City visit-trips and tourism
Experts expect visit-trips and tourism to be on the rise in 2018. There are two new casinos, a new focus on entertainment and investment in Atlantic City that hasn’t been seen in years.
“One thing I feel comfortable in predicting is that in 2018 the number of visit-trips will increase, snapping a 12-year streak of annual decreases since visitor numbers peaked in 2005 at just under 35 million,” Anthony Marino, an independent transportation analyst, said to the Press of Atlantic City.
“Unemployment is down, incomes are going up, gasoline prices are holding, most of the conditions are set to see tourism dollars increase,” said Michael Busler, professor of finance at Stockton University to the Press.
There is no denying it’s an exciting time for Atlantic City. That excitement should translate to more visits and more tourism dollars for the city.