|By Sarah Watson, The Press of Atlantic
City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 09, 2012--Dear national and international media: Contrary to what you may have seen on TV, Atlantic City did not wash away in Hurricane Sandy.
The world-famous Boardwalk is fully intact along the oceanfront, and the city's Tourism District is open for business.
And the city's recovery hinges on the tourism industry, which provides jobs to many area residents whose homes sustained flooding and wind damage.
This is the message the Atlantic City Alliance is trying to send to those who may have watched video that showed the already-crumbling section of Boardwalk in the South Inlet neighborhood damaged or destroyed after Sandy's waves and storm surge.
To counter that message, Alliance CEO Liza Cartmell, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director John Palmieri and Caesars Entertainment Eastern Division President Don Marrandino held a conference call Friday with media from across the country and launched a media blitz to repair the damage to the city's tourism image that occurred during Sandy.
"Every broadcaster that wants to be empathetic and sympathetic when doing their broadcast, when they make references to the problems in New Jersey, of course the reference that comes to mind is the Atlantic City Boardwalk," Cartmell said. "It really is vital to Atlantic City that we correct the misrepresentation that the Atlantic City Boardwalk and its operations were damaged."
Palmieri said that during the storm and its immediate aftermath, nonlocal media congregated in the South Inlet to broadcast images of the Boardwalk behind them in pieces. "They missed the story. The Boardwalk, the historic Boardwalk, is in good repair," he said. "It does affect the economy when people consider the Boardwalk was damaged in the Tourism District. They are left to think they should not be visiting."
The Alliance is launching a new blogging campaign, called "Can Do AC," to highlight the rebuilding effort in Atlantic City and New Jersey. It said it will donate all the proceeds from its holiday "Do AC" car magnets to the recovery effort, specifically repairs in the city's neighborhoods, Cartmell said.
The organization is aggressively trying to counteract the negative and incorrect media perceptions that Atlantic City's Boardwalk and casinos suffered severe damage, by offering media tours and reaching out to media through the new campaigns, Cartmell said.
Marrandino said the only damage he knew of to casinos was to the roof of Harrah's Resort, which will cost several million dollars to fix. Workers finished an emergency stabilization just before this week's northeaster, but the final repairs to the roof over the casino hotel's theater will take several months to finish, he said.
"It does not affect the operations at all," he said. "All rooms are in service, and I expect the hotel to sell out and the city will be 85 percent back Saturday night."
The Alliance will host a walk on the Boardwalk on Sunday to help raise money for the Red Cross and to help visitors see that the Boardwalk is fully intact, as are the businesses along it, Cartmell said.
"We encourage everyone to come and see for themselves that this is a place to move forward," she said.
Sandy's worst damage to New Jersey's shore occurred north of Atlantic City. Cartmell said she feels the city's tourism industry could help the state's tourism industry recover from the storm.
"We really feel that Atlantic City is in the position to lead the efforts to rebuild the tourism market in New Jersey," she said. "This is the lifeblood of New Jersey's economy."
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