I fell in love with Hunterdon County as an avid cyclist. Back then, I didn’t have to look hard to find isolated roads that wound through picturesque scenery.
As I ticked off mile after mile, it was also easy to see that Hunterdon County was a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I passed tubers drifting down the Delaware, nature lovers hiking the towpath, cars crowding roadside farmstands, and couples casually window shopping in Lambertville. And that was in one afternoon.
The Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s Game Plan
However, county officials have had a surprisingly difficult time marketing Hunterdon to tourists. They worry that it’s become an afterthought for day-trippers.
“We do not want to be a best-kept secret,” Marc Saluk told My Central Jersey. “We want to share what we have, and we want people to enjoy Hunterdon County.”
Saluk was recently named director of a new arm of the county’s government, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism. The department is planning marketing strategies that will be unveiled this summer. According to My Central Jersey, with the goal of better promoting existing tourism campaigns, including the Hunterdon 579 Trail, Hunterdon Beer Trail, Hunterdon County Wine Trail, and Love Frenchtown.
“We’ve weighed in on these smaller efforts that focused on a niche aspect of Hunterdon, but now with the success of those, we’re ready to roll out a full umbrella brand and make sure that the totality of all of Hunterdon’s tourism assets are tied to the Hunterdon name,” Saluk said. “We want to make sure that people really know everything that we’ve got to offer.”
A 2017 study commissioned by the county recommended a formal tourism office be established and promptly put to work on a “significant” tourism campaign. The study found that 94% of Hunterdon tourists were happy with their visit and that 91% said they wanted to return, according to My Central Jersey.
“The number of visitors who report high satisfaction with their visit to Hunterdon, combined with the extremely high percentage stating that they would return, really bodes well for tourism in Hunterdon,” said Jennifer Barr, a professor of Business Studies at Stockton who worked on the study.
However, as in so many other instances, the pandemic may have been the nudge officials needed to finally act. As people throughout the tri-state region searched for things to do outdoors, where social distancing is easy. Many found their way to Hunterdon, exacerbating the need for a program that could steer them in the right direction.
Better late than never, perhaps. A coordinated campaign could be coming when it’s needed most, as the farmer’s markets and “Main Street” shops that rely so heavily on day-trippers look to regain some footing following a devastating couple of years.