Pallone Should Fight to Reauthorize Brand USA So They Can Continue to Help Lure International Visitors to Atlantic City and Other New Jersey Cities
By Chris Knudsen
The fall means one thing for sports fans in the Garden State: football is back! And with football comes tourism, both as fans travel to, from or through New Jersey. But it’s not just Giants, Jets and Scarlet Knights fans that are traveling on Game Day. New Jersey also sees an influx of tourism and revenue in Atlantic City related to sports betting.
The state Division of Gaming Enforcement released a report that revealed a total gaming revenue increase 13% in August 2019 compared to the same month last year with the total gaming revenue at $338.8 million. This August marked the 15th consecutive month of gaming revenue increases for casinos in Atlantic City.
In response, the President of the Casino Association of New Jersey Steve Callender said, “The summer of 2019 was the one of the best summers in recent years for Atlantic City. Casinos saw strong employment, visitation and gaming revenue. Two great back-to-back summer seasons continue to demonstrate that the casino industry’s ongoing investment in Atlantic City’s transformation into a first-class resort and business conference destination has staying power.”
And the Executive Director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism at Stockton University Rummy Pandit told The Press of Atlantic City, “Overall, Atlantic City continues to demonstrate strong gaming revenues compared to 2018, indicating a consistent growth within its market segments and further strengthening its position as a premier destination resort on the East Coast.”
With all this growth, it’s clear Atlantic City has a lot to offer tourists from all over. But how do we compete with the more well-publicized gambling destination Las Vegas when it comes to luring international visitors to Atlantic City?
One of the ways is a fairly unknown organization called Brand USA, which serves as an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to increasing international tourism numbers. Brand USA is a public-private partnership that markets destinations in the United States, like Atlantic City, to visitors from outside the country. And they do a great job of it. Last year, international tourism accounted for 6 percent of New Jersey’s total visitors, who spent $2.8 billion during their stay. And Brand USA has been key in promoting New Jersey to those international visitors – and encouraging them to spend millions or even billions more. In fact, even after all the success its already had, Brand USA is establishing offices in 20 international markets that cover more than 40 countries which makes up 93% of all inbound travel. In other words, they are just getting started.
Even though Brand USA doesn’t actually need taxpayer money to operate, it has to be reauthorized by Congress since they were the ones who set it up to begin with. The last time Brand USA required reauthorization in 2014, it sailed through the House passing with bipartisan support, securing 347 votes of support. But this year, its funding may be at risk because Congress is dragging its feet getting around to reauthorizing the program.
That is why it’s important for our Representative Frank Pallone to recognize how beneficial Brand USA’s marketing efforts are to New Jersey and use his considerable weight in Congress as the chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee to quickly reauthorize Brand USA.
Last year, 333,860 New Jersey jobs were supported by visitor spending, which is almost 10% of total jobs in the state. Tourist organizations whose efforts play a key role in that number should be able to continue working. It would be a shame if Brand USA isn’t reauthorized this year given all the great things it does to boost tourism.
Chris Knudeson lives in the Lincroft section of Middletown Township. He and his family are active locally in business and political issues.