The Greater Atlantic City Chamber recently held a panel discussion with several top casino executives in attendance. During the panel, those attending pointed out what they would like to see added to the region to increase visitation and convention business. The options discussed included better transportation with air travel as a main focus.
Casino executives at the panel stated that an increase in air travel to the Atlantic City International Airport would increase the visitation numbers for the region. With a wider range of markets allowed to travel into Atlantic City, casinos and other businesses could benefit. Executives pointed out that when nearby jurisdictions decided to offer casinos, visitors went there due to air travel options.
In the past, over 35 million people traveled to Atlantic City annually. However, that number has dropped considerably over the years to around 22 million. Casino Association of New Jersey president Steve Callender, commented during the panel that if air service were available, then it would make a difference in the visitor numbers.
The casino industry and Spirit Airlines have made commitments to bring passengers in from regions like Chicago and Boston, but they need other areas like Charlotte and Atlanta, according to Callender. The goal is to get air travel to Atlantic City from regions where people don’t have to fly to go to the casino.
The region now has enough rooms since the Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort are open, so with more flights to the region, they can offer more conventions and events for travelers. The casinos easily can house convention guests during the midweek or off-season so promoting for conventions is a great option to fill the venues during the emptier time frames.
For Atlantic City, not having more air travel options into the region is harming the gaming business travel numbers. As more nearby markets like New York and Philadelphia expand to offer casino gaming, potential visitors are not coming to Atlantic City and instead, going to these markets.
According to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa COO and President, Marcus Glover, the lack of convenience has turned the market from a $5 billion one to around a $3 billion one. To overcome the losses, the gaming venues have had to diversify and consider non-gaming amenities. Glover also stated that it is hard to grow the market when there is no convenient means to get people to the region.
Currently, the airport in Atlantic City is operated by the South Jersey Transportation Authority. Data from the operator shows the number of passengers from 2019, decreased 2.6% from 2018. The year before, that total has dropped almost 6% and the year before that, almost 9%.
Over the years, Atlantic City has considered increasing their air service, but nothing has come of the discussions. Several airlines used to operate in the region, such as Delta and Air Canada, but left after the results were not what they expected.
Reportedly, a commitment from the casinos is needed before the airline will even consider adding more service options. A financial promise will have to be made and met for flights to be guaranteed. However, it is unclear as to if the casinos will be willing to do this.
The discussions should continue, and it will be interesting to see if anything comes from it. Perhaps we will see even more flights coming soon to the region to bring even more travelers to Atlantic City.