Continued financial setbacks in Atlantic City, N.J., are damaging the city's convention industry, according to new reports from its visitor’s bureau.
The health of Atlantic City rests almost solely on the success of its hospitality and casino businesses. But with ongoing political battles leading to inaction and the economics of the city trending downward, meeting professionals are seeing the signs and backing out.
Meet AC, Atlantic City's convention and visitor's bureau, said the city is not on track to meet what was expected to be a record year for roomnights from conventions and business travelers. Earlier this year, the city was forecasting 300,000 roomnights thanks to its convention business, but recent events have slashed these projections by 40 percent to 180,000 roomnights during 2016, down from 253,000 roomnights last year.
This blow to the city's hotel revenue is not going unanswered. Jeff Albrecht, the board chairman at Meet AC and GM of the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, signed a letter addressed to Gov. Chris Christie, Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, state senate president Steve Sweeney and assembly speaker Vincent Prieto, which publicly aired the seaside town's grievances.
“Economically speaking, we are losing tens of millions of dollars over the next one to five years. Even our New Jersey state (groups) are nervous about returning to Atlantic City. And our existing customers are asking for ‘out’ clauses in their contracts," the letter said.
Among Atlantic City's financial woes exists a possible city bankruptcy. On Monday morning, Guardian announced the city was able to make a $1.8 million bond payment, which was due by the end of the day. If the payment hadn't been made, Atlantic City would have been the first New Jersey municipality to default on its debt in almost eight decades.
“We are hoping that the political minds making the decisions will quickly come to some consensus and get the finances fixed in Atlantic City,” Jim Wood, CEO of Meet AC, said of the letter. “That letter was sent to encourage the lawmakers to come to the table and get this resolved as fast as possible.”