Attracting visitors; Will WNY and UC become new tourist meccas?

What is there for tourists to do in Hudson County? Besides the restaurants and bars in Hoboken and the outlet stores in Secaucus, there isn’t much – or is there? These are the questions that the state Department of Travel and Tourism came to West New York’s Las Palmas restaurant at 61st Street and Bergenline Avenue last week to find out. “Fifteen to 20 years ago, we would say, ‘Go eat in Hoboken and shop in Secaucus,'” said Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons. “Now we are able to say, shop Bergenline Avenue again.” Bergenline Avenue runs through Union City, West New York, Guttenberg and North Bergen. With the more than 300 stores located on West New York’s Bergenline Avenue, Oscar Miqueli, the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone coordinator, described Bergenline Avenue last week as the most comprehensive outdoor mall in New Jersey. “We have everything from hardware stores to fine dresses, fine restaurants or fast food,” said Miqueli. Bergenline Avenue’s diversity has not gone unnoticed by the state. Noreen Bodman, the state’s acting executive director of tourism, said that this region, better known as the Gateway Region, runs a close second in tourism dollars for New Jersey. The state is divided into six regions. Things to do Bill LaRosa, the administrator for cultural and tourism affairs in Hudson County, named the city’s close proximity to New York City and Jersey City’s Liberty State Park as some of the biggest attractions to the area. He also said that having no tax on clothes and shoes is an asset. “Shopping is a huge activity among travelers,” said Bodman. She noted that on Bergenline Avenue, one can find different cultural handmade items and also a diversity of food. “Everybody loves to eat,” said LaRosa. “Bergenline Avenue has great restaurants. Hispanic food is becoming very popular.” According to Miqueli, the avenue has many different types of cultural foods. There are Mexican, Ecuadorian, Cuban, Colombian and Italian, just to name a few. However, Miqueli admits there is still room for improvement. “We need more anchor stores to keep improving,” said Miqueli. West New York has done a lot to add to the attractiveness of the area. New sidewalks and light posts give the area a Victorian look. And the work is not done yet. Miqueli said that banners are going to be added to the light posts to make the street more colorful. Plans for buying a trolley as the specific bus to transport people around the city are also being discussed. State initiative “The top three things people are looking for when they are traveling,” said Bodman. “Are beaches, culture and casino gaming. New Jersey has all three.” According to Chia Whitehouse, the state’s international travel and tourism specialist, there are more than 130 cultures in New Jersey. Fortunately, Hudson County can definitely show off the state’s cultural diversity. “The Hispanic population has reached one million in this area,” said Whitehouse. “The greatest asset to New Jersey is its heritage.” Two new brochures produced by the state help to promote the area’s diversity. The State of New Jersey’s Latino Visitor’s Guide and The State of New Jersey’s Visitor’s Guide to African American Heritage and Attractions, both produced by The Writing Company, a public relations and marketing firm in Newark, point visitors to the best attractions in the area. According to Gloria Bryant, the president of The Writing Company, the guides give only a sample of the area’s special events, cultural institutions, festivals and celebrations. The Latino Visitor’s guide includes a sample itinerary that begins with shopping on Bergenline Avenue. The brochure tells visitors where they can get cigars hand-rolled by Cuban craftsmen or authentic maracas along the avenue. Also featured is the authentic Latino music that can be heard in any of the Avenue’s many dance clubs. “We need people to spend more time here,” said LaRosa.


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