Atlantic City Supports Meaningful Meetings With New Education Series

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Skift Take

Visit Atlantic City’s content program is designed to give event planners the resources and knowledge to intertwine sustainability into their entire programs and to get a better appreciation for the destination as a whole.

This content was created collaboratively by Visit Atlantic City and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

It has been nearly three years since the launch of the Net Zero Carbon Pledge for the Events Industry, and sustainability continues to be a hot topic among meeting professionals.

With environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals taking the spotlight, the industry is beginning to ask the tough questions on how to ensure a future that is not only greener but more inclusive. If progress is going to happen, it will take a group effort from every vertical in the industry — from individual planners to venue partners and DMOs.

It’s a concern that Visit Atlantic City shares and it’s a key motivation behind its new Meaningful Meetings 2.0 mission, which encourages event professionals to “leave your mark, but not your footprint.” As part of this larger effort, the DMO is now championing a new education series for planners.

The program will give event professionals dedicated guidance on navigating all of the city’s many resources, providing practical tips on leveraging sponsorships, community networks, business partners, and existing infrastructure to turn individual ESG goals into a collaborative project. But more than that, the series is designed as a reintroduction to a destination eager to move beyond the surface to create meaningful relationships with its partners.

Skift Meetings sat down with Gary Musich, vice president of sales for Visit Atlantic City, to learn more about this innovative new approach.

Taking an Unconventional Approach

Image: The Surfrider Foundation

Atlantic City’s meeting business is clearly on an upward trajectory, but the DMO is defying conventional wisdom by taking the conversation in a different direction. “We decided to put a program together that talks about things that matter to you, not just professionally but personally,” said Musich.

That means going beyond room nights, market share, and venue openings to discuss the fabric of Atlantic City’s community. Myriad organizations, from nonprofits to artisans and restaurateurs, give back to the destination with everyday actions.

By spotlighting these individuals and local organizations, Visit Atlantic is introducing partners who share many of the same values that event planners cherish. It is also drawing attention to the expanding definition of sustainability, from eco-friendly practices to supporting a community’s whole ecosystem, including its people and economy.

Among the groups Atlantic City promotes as business partners are:

  • MudGirls Studios, which seeks to lift up disadvantaged and at-risk women through art projects that provide meaning to their lives and enrich the destination as a whole.
  • Reed’s Organic Farm, a regenerative farm and animal sanctuary that nourishes the community through healthy food and educational programs.
  • Surfrider Foundation South Jersey Chapter, which has a mission to preserve the Atlantic Ocean and area beaches.

The idea, Musich said, is that the more planners know about these and other well-minded groups, the more likely they will see the destination as more than a collection of hotels, casinos, and world-class facilities. As an industry, “we’re all on the same page” when it comes to sustainability and demonstrating social responsibility, he said.

Statistics add credence to the comment. A study from Knowland found that 60 percent of planners cite diversity, inclusion, and equality efforts as their top priority. Meanwhile, 39 percent of those surveyed for the American Express Global Business Travel Global Meetings and Events Forecast prioritize sustainable suppliers.

Focusing on Being Present

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Image: Visit Atlantic City’s 2023 DC Sustainability Education Series

In building what Musich hopes will be long-term relationships with planners, Visit Atlantic City is bringing its education series to four East Coast markets: Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, and Philadelphia/Atlantic City.

The series is designed to have a big impact on a small stage. Each session is meant to be intimate — with about 50 planners attending — so the meetings are as meaningful as possible. While Visit Atlantic City will have a noticeable presence at the series of events, the speakers will include experts in the field from local institutions like Stockton University. Local vendors will also be on hand to give a taste of the Atlantic City experience.

“We’re going to talk about who we are, what we stand for, and what’s important to us,” said Musich. “Instead of giving you water bottles, we’re providing content you can take home with you.”

To that end, Visit Atlantic City is targeting in-person attendees with this initiative, although it is partnering with PCMA for online content regarding sustainability.

Enhancing the Planning Process

If all goes as planned, Visit Atlantic City hopes the education series will save a step usually reserved for the RFP process. Rather than planners offering general guidelines for partners and CSR projects, as well as objectives for reducing waste, they will have the tools in place to create partnerships that align with their upcoming event.

“These are sincere discussions before we get anywhere into [planning a meeting],” said Musich. As Musich explained, sustainability is no longer a checklist item. Instead, he hopes it becomes part of every step of the planning process.

Connecting the Dots

Image: Atlantic City Convention Center

Visit Atlantic City’s emphasis on sustainability comes as the destination is at one of its healthiest moments in recent memory. The destination that has hosted MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC), the NAACP, the Air Traffic Control Association, and other large groups and events is primed to surge in business events.

Atlantic City Convention Center is LEED Gold certified, and three Caesars properties are powered by one of the country’s largest solar panel arrays. Notable new additions include:

All told, Atlantic City now has 2.2 million square feet of event space and more than 17,500 hotel rooms.

“We have a strategy and partnerships that we’ve put into place in the past year — we are in a big upswing,” said Musich.

This content was created collaboratively by Visit Atlantic City and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.