Three Stockton University studies highlighted Thursday show that “Atlantic City would benefit from a coordinated marketing plan and events that can attract more and younger visitors and emphasize the assets of the city — including casinos, beaches, and restaurants.”
The surveys, conducted by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism (LIGHT) at Stockton’s School of Business, found that most visitors to the island city are over age 40.
“Younger visitors,” according to the findings, “are interested in the city but are more likely to visit for a specific event or activity and are influenced by recommendations from their peers and the media.”
“While they were separate surveys, there are similar topics and results among all three that indicate trends and opportunities for the resort moving forward,” LIGHT assistant director Sarah Grady said in a statement. She was referring o an Atlantic City lifestyle tourism survey done in partnership with the Casino Reinvestment Development Association, an Atlantic City Restaurant Report, and an Atlantic City Stakeholder Report.
The news comes as Atlantic City begins its pivot from “offseason” to three weekends of NCAA men’s basketball March Madness, followed by spring and then an always-robust summer visitation season.
Key findings noted
The surveys found the most common “travel group” to Atlantic City to be spouses or two significant others visiting together. Few visitors came with children under the age of 3.
A ratio of 82% of respondents satisfied with their most recent visit contrasted with just 7% dissatisfied. The latter mainly were disappointed in limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specific events and activities were found to be far more important in the travel decision-making process for younger visitors than older ones.
“The relative importance of special events and specific activities to this group further suggests that events such as the Beach Concert series, the Air Show and other concerts and shows may be a particularly compelling draw for this category of visitor,” one of the reports concluded.
More than one-third of respondents who were asked about Restaurant Week (an October event) said they had heard about the event on social media — even though almost half of those visitors are so-called “Baby Boomers” aged around 55 to 75.
Nearly one-fifth of Restaurant Week visitors traveled more than 50 miles, underscoring the power of that attraction. About 30% of those customers stayed in the city overnight, and 62% rated the week “5 out of 5” for value, while 86% said they would return this year.
Strengths and weaknesses
The “condition of the city and its public reputation” and a lack of public transportation were cited as the key weaknesses in the minds of visitors. The strengths were the casinos, beach, and boardwalk, as well as art, music, culture, entertainment, and dining options.
What do respondents want more of? “A diversified, multi-cultural, and multi-generational tourism product for Atlantic City.”
Are the city’s marketing resources seen as sufficient? No, said 73.3% of respondents.
Does Atlantic City need a “reimagined brand image”? Yes, said 54.8% of respondents.
The most common counties of residence among respondents were Ocean County, Philadelphia, Atlantic County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Kings County, N.Y. (Brooklyn).
One report asked, “If you had the power and authority to do three things to reimagine Atlantic City’s tourism future, what three things would you do?”
Some selected responses:
- “Make it safe, Make it clean, Make it attractive”
- “Revitalize downtown, Attract new businesses, Add family friendly attractions”*
- “Cleaner streets and neighborhoods, more cultural and community events, improved reputation on public safety”*
- “Transform blighted buildings with paint, and transform empty lots into parks and playgrounds, even if temporary. The visual landscape is a turn off to tourists”*
- “Utilize the local talent pool to develop a robust casino entertainment scene that supports area artists and subsequently the local economy. Much like the collective belief that Nashville begets great musicians, Atlantic City has the potential to create a reputation that it develops and supports home-grown performers and fine artists”