Atlantic City’s tradeshow and convention business was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, but with a new $1 million incentive program, it’s taking steps to recover some of what it lost.
The Atlantic City Alliance and Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, in partnership with the 12 casino properties in the city, have agreed to fund a $1 million incentive pool to be dispersed to events committing to an Atlantic City venue in 2013.
“Like every city, we have a development fund to stimulate new business,” says Gary Musich, vice president of convention development for the Atlantic City CVA. “Now we have a big development fund.”
The initiative is being branded as an extension of the existing “Do Anything. Do Everything. Do AC,” campaign.
Priority for distributing the money will be given to new business, shows generating at least 1,000 room nights, non-peak (mid-week and non-summer) events and those using city-owned convention facilities, but amounts will ultimately be decided on a case-by-case basis, says Musich.
“It can be for attendance building, it can be to supplement transportation to and from the city, it can be used as a marketing tool,” he says. “Based on the program, we’ll put together a proposal that includes a piece of this incentive money for that show. It can be used for anything.”
Similar programs had been discussed prior to the hurricane, but what city officials term “sensational, out-of-context and erroneous news reports” in a recent statement made a bold move imperative.
“It became evident that there was a huge amount of misperception about the marketplace,” says Liza Cartmell, CEO of the ACA. “We have a huge PR challenge right now.”
In the short term, about 90 events (including two of the city’s biggest) were cancelled as a direct result of Sandy, the CVA says. That breaks down to about 75,000 attendees, 25,000 hotel room nights and an estimated $31 million in spending.
“We lost a significant amount,” Musich says, “like anybody who’s been through something like that.”
But those losses are temporary; a change in the perception of the locale could have a long-lasting impact.
Despite a lack of actual damage, that’s what they could be facing. A recent poll commissioned by the ACA indicated that more than 40 percent of Americans believed the city’s trademark boardwalk had been destroyed in the storm.
“We have pretty much revamped our entire marketing campaign,” Cartmell says. “That’s kept us pretty busy, making the primary message that we’re in tact, we are open, we are anxious for people to come and start the Jersey comeback.”