More people are staying overnight in Atlantic City as a result of conventions, meetings and public shows held in the resort, new data released by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority show.

Room nights booked as a result of the business and convention meetings at both the Atlantic City Convention Center and hotels throughout the city are up 15 percent so far this year over 2012, according to statistics released Monday.

May was an especially strong month for the city. The hotel sector hosted 11 shows, down from 14 last May. Still, those 11 shows generated 9,882 room nights, an 85 percent increase over last May. Meanwhile, nine shows at the Convention Center in May resulted in 6,386 room nights, an 11 percent increase.

Officials attributed the increase at the Convention Center to the Average Joe Expo, a first-time public exposition intended to attract a host of "regular guys" with a host of demonstrations and information on a range of subjects including sports, tools, cars, hunting, cigars and barbecue.

Jon Henderson, who owns Good Time Tricycle in Mays Landing, created the expo after hosting the Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival, also

a popular draw at the Convention Center.

"These convention statistics continue to show the draw Atlantic City has for convention delegates and public show attendees," said ACCVA President Jeff Vasser.

The ACCVA was merged with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority earlier this year and now functions as a division of CRDA.

Increased convention and event business has been among Gov. Chris Christie's goals for revitalizing Atlantic City with a push toward nongambling visitors. According to the ACCVA statistics, the nine Convention Center bookings in May generated in 13,792 visitors, who spent nearly $7.4 million, up nearly 20 percent from last May.

More than 5,550 people attended business meetings and shows at individual hotel properties generating another $6.6 million. Visitor spending at the hotel properties as a result of the meetings was up nearly 114 percent over last May.

The Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded marketing group created through Tourism District legislation two years ago, is charged with promoting the city and particularly it's nongambling attractions. While convention, tradeshow and business meetings are just part of the picture, Alliance spokesman Jeff Guaracino said the trend is encouraging, particularly because the weather in May was not especially attractive beach weather.

According to the National Weather Service, the average daily temperature in the area in May was 61 degrees, compared to 65 degrees last year. Three of the four full weekends during the month saw rain this year, compared to just one weekend with rain in 2012.

"We really had a pretty wet, cold month. It's not the most beautiful beach weather," Guaracino said. "Overall, it's all very encouraging but there's still work to be done. Heat waves, great events, good entertainment - all these things play a factor in bringing in more people."

ACCVA tracks overnight stays resulting from conventions, meetings and tradeshows, but the overall picture of room stays across the resort has been encouraging as well, officials have said.

Year-end 2012 statistics released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in April show that the number of occupied rooms in the city increased by 2.6 percent from about 5.1 million rooms in 2011 to 5.2 million rooms in 2012.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan:

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