Atlantic City hotel room nights booked as a result of conventions plummeted 73 percent in June.
That is, if you consider that Atlantic City had a couple of unique events in June 2012 that qualified as conventions by Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority standards.
That month, the authority, now a division of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, included the Phish festival and Metallica’s Orion Music + More in the city’s convention business, ACCVA President Jeffrey Vasser said. Consequently, without the large-scale festivals in the mix this year, June’s convention numbers were dismal compared to a year ago, according to data released Wednesday.
Promoter Starr Hill Presents asked the authority to help secure blocks of room nights at area hotels for last year’s festivals. As a result, concertgoers who booked rooms for the festivals through the authority were counted as convention delegates, and their stays were counted as room nights booked as a result of conventions in the monthly tourism barometers.
While the authority does track the number of events booked at Boardwalk Hall, it does not typically measure hotel rooms booked as a result of concerts or other forms of entertainment in the city. Vasser said festival-goers who booked rooms were counted because the ACCVA used the same process for securing the rooms that it uses for convention business.
Asked if the authority considered how that inclusion might skew the data, Vasser said the authority’s chief priority is driving business. He defended including the concerts as conventions, saying they were multi-day events that drove significant visits to the resort. The festivals lasted for several hours each day, and Metallica’s festival included other components such as skateboarding demonstrations and classic car collections, much like a public convention.
“We don’t book business because we’re worrying about the barometer,” Vasser said. “We’re going to book what we’re going to book, and there are always going to be spikes. When we have an opportunity to lock in a convention for five years, we do that knowing that you could see a dip when that period is up.”
Data released Wednesday by ACCVA show that Atlantic City booked 20 conventions, trade shows or meetings in June, up from 15 the previous year. Yet room nights booked as a result of the conventions plunged from 23,557 in June 2012 to 6,335 in the same month this year. Similarly, delegates fell nearly 88 percent, from 124,160 to 17,134.
The tourism barometers track shows booked at the convention center as well as meetings booked at Atlantic City hotel properties. The concerts at the former municipal airport were included as shows at hotel properties, officials said.
A news release by the authority Wednesday explained the steep decline by saying the previous year’s June statistics had been magnified.
“While convention room nights appear to be down significantly this June, last June’s room night statistics reflected room bookings the ACCVA Convention Development department made on behalf of the Atlantic City Music Festival that was held at Bader Field last year, which magnified the 2012 June numbers,” the release stated.
Just how much of a boost the concerts provided remained unclear Wednesday.
Elaine Zamansky, a spokeswoman for the authority, initially said the Atlantic City Music Festival referenced in the news release referred to Metallica’s Orion Music + More festival, and the authority had not included any concerts as conventions previously. Vasser later said that the deal with Starr Hill was reflected in the Metallica and Phish shows — both in June 2012 — as well as the Dave Matthews Band Caravan tour in June 2011.
About 6,700 room nights and 6,200 delegates recorded in June 2012 were associated with the Metallica festival, Zamansky said. The same breakdown related to Phish was not immediately available Wednesday.
That’s not to say those figures reflect all of the attendance at those shows. Box office reports showed that on average, 34,762 people were at Phish or Metallica each day. ACCVA’s data only tracks those who booked rooms through the authority’s room blocks.
Regardless of the concerts’ impact, June’s convention numbers still likely would have taken a hit. Even without the room nights attributed to Metallica, convention room nights would have been down 62 percent.
Officials noted that several of the events held at the Atlantic City Convention Center this June were small meetings with a limited number of delegates that did not have associated room nights, including union meetings.
While an official breakdown of the Dave Matthews festival’s impact on the statistics was not immediately available, ACCVA’s summary data show significant increases. In June 2011, the authority noted a 593 percent increase in room nights booked as a result of conventions and a 4,477 percent increase in the number of delegates at the conventions compared to June of the previous year.
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