HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Atlantic County officials are embarking on a countywide marketing campaign for the first time in decades, arguing the area can no longer rely on Atlantic City’s brand alone to bring tourists and businesses to the region.
Earlier this month, the Atlantic County Economic Alliance voted unanimously to spend $40,000 on a one-year marketing campaign headed by NJ Southern Shore DMO to promote tourism beyond the casinos in Atlantic City. The campaign, the first of its sort in nearly 30 years, is part of a broader effort by the county to diversify its economy beyond just gambling.
“This is something that was laid out in the report,” said Leo Schoffer, interim chairman of the ACEA, referring to the Angelou economic report commissioned in 2015.
The ACEA is a nonprofit tasked with bringing new business into the county, an effort strongly recommended in the Angelou report. It holds monthly meetings at the Hamilton Mall that are open to the public.
“Most counties have a countywide marketing campaign,” said James Rutala, a planning consultant for several towns across the county. “Atlantic County hasn’t had that because we’ve relied on the casinos.”
Atlantic County brings in nearly $6.7 billion per year in tourism revenue, Rutala said. Of that, about $2.6 billion comes from casinos. That means the remaining revenue streams are from smaller towns such as Hammonton and Buena Vista’s Richland section, among many others.
NJ Southern Shore DMO already markets Cape May and Cumberland counties. The DMO, or destination marketing organization, promotes those counties on its website and at trade shows throughout the United States and Canada.
Some of the sites they promote for Cape May County are Cape May Brewing Co., Cape May County Park & Zoo, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and the Jersey Cape Wine, Beer & Distillery Trail. In Cumberland County, the DMO markets the Millville Army Airfield Museum and the Cumberland Mall, among other destinations.
Several towns across the county had considered creating their own destination marketing organizations before the ACEA agreed to invest in the marketing campaign, Rutala said. Now, those towns are enthusiastic about the new effort.
“When you look at successful marketing campaigns … they market the whole regions,” Rutala said, pointing to marketing campaigns in the Florida Keys that promote all the towns collectively. “This is a whole new regional effort.”