The incentives the South Jersey Transit Authority is offering to lure another airline to Atlantic City International Airport are a nice try but alone they will do nothing to increase visitor traffic to the area.
The authority is offering tiered marketing incentives of $25,000 to $140,000 to draw additional airlines to the region. Currently, Spirit Airlines is the airport’s only carrier.
Past history shows that airlines have left once incentives run out, citing low traffic and high costs of doing business.
Carriers that have backed out of ACY include Air Canada, United, Continental, US Airways, Delta, Northwest, WestJet, AirTran and even President Donald Trump’s ill-fated Trump Shuttle.
Assuming there is an airline that would be interested in these incentives, what can our region promise in terms of customer traffic?
Even with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Resort Casino opening, the resort has fewer casinos to attract visitors than it had five years ago.
Despite much discussion about diversifying the tourism offerings in and around Atlantic City, the casinos that shut have not been replaced by a world-class museum, a theme park or professional sports arena.
The route into the city from the airport is no easier to navigate than before. There’s no direct rail line so passengers must take an indirect route, a shuttle or a cab.
Meet AC, the sales and marketing force that supports the Atlantic City Convention Center, consistently books small- to mid-sized conventions in that space with aggressive marketing and incentives. Having another airline flying into our local airport would certainly strengthen their pitch to convention planners going forward.
But to sustain steady crowds, particularly in the long offseason, the region must work toward building multiple noncasino attractions that will keep business and leisure travelers coming back time and again.
Without that demand for flights, no amount of marketing incentives will keep additional airline carriers landing at ACY.