The county wanted to attract more tourists. But how could Washington County, Utah, set itself apart from the nearly 30 other U.S. counties with that name?
The solution was to rebrand itself, according to Kevin Lewis, director of what is now the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office.
The new name draws attention to the fact that one of the most popular national parks is in the county’s backyard. Visitation at Zion National Park has risen to more than 5 million last year from about 2.6 million in 2010.
At the same time, Lewis said, the rebranding helps highlight the many other recreational activities available in the county beyond the national park, helping to spread the tourism wealth around.
Washington County’s rebranding campaign began just as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States.
The rebranding effort may have helped the county weather the storm, according to Lewis.
With a more diversified tourism economy, “when the pandemic hit, one market might be down, but another might fill the gaps.
During the pandemic, it dropped, but then it picked up. Last year we had record-breaking visitation” throughout the county, he said.
The forecast is bright for this year, with the World Travel & Tourism Council Oxford Economics estimating that the U.S. tourism industry could reach $2 trillion and exceed pre-pandemic levels by 6.2 percent.
Its data suggests U.S. domestic travel spending could reach more than $1.1 trillion for the year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 11.3 percent.
One big draw to Washington County for all those tourism dollars is endurance sports.
Last September, the county played host to the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, one of 12 official Ironman events in the United States. On May 7, the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Ironman World Championship was set to take place in the county, having been postponed in Hawaii because of the pandemic.
These Ironman events provide the perfect opportunity to showcase the county’s most scenic areas, Lewis noted.
Athletes swim 2.4 miles at Sand Hollow State Park, then bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles throughout the county.
All the endurance sports and outdoor adventures that Washington County now offers has prompted them to borrow a new spin on neighboring New Mexico’s “Land of Enchantment” motto, Lewis added.
“We recently branded ourselves ‘the Land of Endurance.’”
A rebranding effort also is underway in Hunterdon County, N.J.
The goal of the new “Explore Hunterdon: The Other Side of New Jersey” campaign is to distinguish the western county from the state’s familiar traffic-clogged turnpike corridor.
“The number one remark we get here is: ‘This is New Jersey?’” said Mark Saluk, director of the Hunterdon County Department of Economic Development and Tourism.
“They just don’t understand what we have to offer. We have river towns, agritourism, outdoor activities like biking.”
The county had planned for some time to launch a rebranding campaign, he said, but the pandemic really drew the value of the area into focus.
“We realized there are a lot of beautiful outdoor areas, it’s a safe environment,” Saluk noted.
“We want to make sure people realize all that we are when they hear our name.”Hero 1