My wife, Margie, and I spent four days at Disney World last week. We love it. No promotional consideration was given. We are full rate-paying Disney Vacation Club members.
My personality being what it is, even when I'm supposedly on down time, my mind wanders to work-related thoughts along the way.As we blitzed Disney World and all of its wonderful rides, attractions, food and beverages, and seemingly endless entertainment opportunities, we couldn't help but wonder what Atlantic City could be like if a visionary giant like a Walt Disney had been on the job over the past 30 years or more when billions of dollars were pouring into Atlantic City like water.
My old boss Steve Wynn is a huge Walt Disney fan. If you look at everything that Wynn does, it's big. It's magical. Another old boss of mine, Donald Trump, has a similar flair for making a big splash.
In one respect, it's so sad to have witnessed Atlantic City blow a 30-year monopoly and now struggle to desperately find its footing in the midst of massive neighboring jurisdictional competition.
However, throwing in the towel is not an option. The answer is for everyone involved in the process to rededicate themselves. Think big. Dare to create a real destination resort experience.
If everyone in local, county and state government had the same winning attitude as those hardworking employees at the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, Atlantic City would already be much further along.
It's also time to rename this agency what it always should have been, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Bureau. The new Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (lead) state agency should get out of their way.
Let the people at the Convention Authority lead. Let them run with the ball. They actually know what they're doing. They know how to run events. They know how to welcome guests to Atlantic City. They know how to make a positive impression.
Their advance work before guests arrive is outstanding. They are organized and possess a high degree of professionalism and overall attention to detail.
The only thing that has held them back is that the state has never properly funded tourism and advertising in Atlantic City. Look west, my friends, and see how they do it. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Simply fund it and they will come.
Send key CRDA and Convention Authority staff to Disney University for proper customer service training. Atlantic City will never be Disney World, but its level of service and the overall experience has room to dramatically improve.
As boundaries are being formalized next month, now is the time to start the rebirth of Atlantic City. If the state of New Jersey really means business here, it needs to find a new visionary attitude. Then you must will it; and those employees who have direct customer contact must own it.
Make this theme so attractive that folks will take a fresh new look at Atlantic City and give us a final last chance to get this thing right.
There must be a true partnership with the casino industry. Like the CRDA, its key service people should be sent to Disney University training as well.
We also must make better promotional use of the great Boardwalk, beach and Atlantic Ocean. We take it for granted. We are disadvantaged by being too familiar with it. We can actually look straight at it and not even see it.
Others who travel from afar look at it with mouths open wide and can't believe its beauty. We have to take a step back. We must look at our familiar surroundings with a fresh set of eyes.
Gov. Chris Christie gets it. He's thinking big. He's also taking a big risk by taking ownership of Atlantic City. It's true that if you break it, you own it. But, there is a fabulous upside when you dare to be great.
Many of the pieces of the puzzle are already in place. They just need to be tied in with a few strategically placed additions. We need true visionaries, not political hacks. We need people who want to help build a new, exciting Atlantic City.
Now, it's true that Walt Disney had a blank canvas to work with. The Atlantic City experience has been interwoven with an already existing community.
If you dare to think big and can deliver the results to back it up, you will have succeeded in transforming City into a true destination resort. If this is done properly, it will provide a flourishing local, county and state economy for generations to come.
That would certainly be worth the price of admission.
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