This Tuesday marked the seventh anniversary of Jeff Vasser's first day at the helm of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA). Born in Atlantic City and raised in Margate, Vasser now resides in Linwood with his family. After a number of impressive career stops -- 20 years' worth -- he loves working back in his hometown.
You're home-grown, with a "short" detour northwards.
I graduated with Atlantic City High's 100th graduating class in 1978, then studied hotel/restaurant management, focusing on the casino industry, at Cornell, with summer internships here at Resorts and the Golden Nugget. After graduation, my first job was at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, and back then I thought I'd be home within a couple years. Next thing I know, 20 years had gone by and I'd done a variety of things in and out of the hospitality business. For a time, I was a consultant in the sports entertainment and hospitality group of Deloitte Touche, and one of my projects was a re-use analysis of Boardwalk Hall. Interestingly enough, our analysis showed that it should become a special events arena. Who knew, back in '96, that in a mere six years, I'd be coming back to run it?
More proof that there are no coincidences!
This job was perfect, and my children are roughly the same age as my sister's and brother's kids. Also, I had stayed close with the people I grew up with. So it was a speedy transition, and it's great, just great to be back.
Your agency's mission is marketing. What fuels the effort?
We're funded principally under a statute that assesses a promotional tax on hotel rooms within city limits. With the casinos, we partner with hotels, restaurants [and] any companies that provide services to leisure or convention customers. We're also in an alliance with the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association, bringing in about $200,000 a year for our marketing of golf. We were thrilled when, about a week ago, Forbes Traveler ranked us as the No. 6 golf location in the country.
How has the recession affected the ACCVA?
Decreased occupancy affected our funding, but historically we've budgeted very conservatively so we're not yet at a point where we've had to drastically cut our budget. We've cut some programs, but we've also focused on diversifying our market. There's a lot more now in the way of special events [and] interesting promotions. You see that in Atlantic City Restaurant Week, or the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament. That type of mid-week, middle-of-winter event brings incremental visitation. Weekends, we're still doing OK. Restaurants are still doing OK, and the shopping district is doing very well.
What's the hot target market now?
We're focusing on the 25 to 45-year-old, predominantly female, leisure traveler. Almost two-thirds of our visitors are women, and that's trending upward. Walk around this town on a Saturday night -- it's full of bachelorette parties, or girlfriends getting together for dinner and then dancing. The tremendous growth in our spas and in the retail sector has certainly helped us toward becoming the best girlfriends' getaway destination, too.
If you couldn't work in hospitality, casinos or marketing, what would you be?
A pro football coach -- and, to stay out of trouble, I'll say for the Eagles.
Groundbreaking is tentatively set for early spring 2013 and the project will take roughly a year-and-a-half to complete.
Further, as Atlantic City Weekly has learned earlier this week that two key associates at the CRDA who were spearheading an Arts District campaign for Mississippi Avenue in the Ducktown neighborhood of the resort, are both no longer with the CRDA,