Somerset County Tourism Honors Winners of 2019 Salute to Tourism at Sixth Annual Awards Event
Urban Planning and Placemaking Expert, Steven Pedigo Spoke on the Importance of Branding Communities as a Tool for Economic Development
Somerset County Tourism celebrated the winners of the 6th Annual Somerset County Salute to Tourism Awards Program on January 18 at the Bridgewater Marriott Hotel, Bridgewater, N.J. The program pays tribute to front line tourism staff and organizations that set the bar for Somerset County’s $1.2 billion tourism industry. Winners were recognized in four categories: Economic Champion, Service Excellence, Tourism Champion and new this year, Outstanding Event.
The 2019 Salute to Tourism winners
Service Excellence – Gina DiFrancesco, Rooms Controller, Bridgewater Marriott – for going above and beyond to help successfully relocate a new Rutgers University football coach and his family from Ohio to Bridgewater.
After booking rooms for the coach, who was relocating to the area with his family, DiFrancesco created a welcome package and followed up with his family upon check-in at the hotel. The coach was so appreciative of the personalized service and attention he received, that his family ultimately decided to make Bridgewater their home.
Economic Champion – The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster – for its impact on Somerset County in the areas of employment, financial contributions, and community events and programs.
The small yet vibrant non-profit organization employs 56 local residents and contributed nearly $100,000 to the local economy by supporting many local businesses and community organizations. The Center hosted 18 free events that drew thousands of people to the area; it offered more than 200 classes and workshops and ran 57 art camps; and its art exhibitions featured the work of 536 area artists. Additionally, the Center’s six outreach programs were attended by 355 members of the community.
Tourism Champion – Tour of Somerville – for championing Somerset County’s cycling heritage, drawing over 25,000 spectators and 1,000 cyclists to thriving Downtown Somerville in its 75th year, and expanding event offerings to appeal to the entire community.
The oldest bike race in the U.S., the Tour of Somerville included events for all ages and interests over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, adding a new nighttime Sprint Cycling event with world-class cyclists. Organizers of the Tour continue to innovate with a mind to sustain Somerset County’s cycling heritage by instilling a love for cycling among each generation.
Outstanding Event – Somerset County’s Weekend Journey Through the Past – for bringing the educational, economic and preservation benefits of heritage tourism to residents and visitors for over 10 years.
An initiative of the Somerset County Freeholders and Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission, this annual free event is conducted in partnership with local history organizations, artists and Somerset County Tourism. It highlights 30 significant historic sites and their attendant volunteer organizations. The 2018 Weekend Journey served thousands of Somerset county residents, and visitors from 13 other New Jersey counties, 12 states and nine foreign countries.
Jacqueline Morales, director of tourism, opened the event with some statistics and updates about Somerset County Tourism.
According to the 2017 Tourism Economic Impact Study, Tourism in Somerset County grew by 4% in 2017 alone, exceeding that of all immediate competitors and all of the state’s shore counties.
The county’s tourism industry supports 20,000 jobs, and tourism contributes the equivalent of $1,200 dollars in state and local taxes for every household in Somerset County.
Leveraging the destination’s strengths in birding, golf, gardens and equestrian amenities, Somerset County Tourism created a niche print and digital advertising campaign that featured more than 70 member destinations and experiences. It earned more than 2 million impressions over six months and increased website traffic by 78%.
In addition to significant growth last year in the areas of retail and hospitality, culinary and beverage tourism have emerged as significant sectors.
Several of Somerset County’s destinations and experiences are featured in the 2019 State Travel Guide, with several events and venues prominently showcased.
The event’s featured speaker was Steven Pedigo, an expert in economic and urban development, city strategy and management, and placemaking. He spoke on “Place Matters. Leveraging Somerset's Community Brand and Identity.” Some top takeaways of his talk include:
Places compete for talent, investment and tourism.
Places must develop and communicate a cohesive message to leverage a community’s value as somewhere to live, do business and visit.
Talent attraction and retention in today’s job market means finding opportunities for younger workers.
Somerset County’s access to New York City and Philadelphia is a vital part of why it’s a great place to live.
Communities must create and curate experiences for residents and visitors in order to attract and retain them.
More information about Somerset County’s tourism destinations is available at www.visitsomersetnj.com; or contact Jacqueline Morales at email@example.com or (908) 218-4300.
Jacqueline Morales (far left), Somerset County director of tourism, with winners and presenters of the 2019 Salute to Tourism Awards. (L to R): Niquole Primiani of the NJ Historical Commission; Stephanie Moench, board president, Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission; Leigh Zona, Mary Lev and Elie Trubert, Center for Contemporary Art; Adam Perle, ArtPride New Jersey; Gina DiFrancesco and John McPartlan, Bridgewater Marriott; Michael Malekoff, Tour of Somerville; Wendy Ewen, Unity Bank; Kaitlin Bundy, manager, Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission; Joe and Dottie Saling, members of the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame.
Media contact: Jacqueline Moralesfirstname.lastname@example.org or (908) 218-4300