Delaware tourism industry on the rise

Gov. John Carney

Gov. John Carney

With its beach activities, tax-free shopping and restaurants, Delaware has attracted an increased amount of visitors over the past several years.

Tuesday, Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, and Delaware Tourism Director Linda Parkowski announced new tourism numbers.  The increases, they say, have a positive impact on the state’s economy.

During a press conference at the Dew Point Brewing Company in Yorklyn, a new business located on a renovated industrial site, Parkowski said Delaware has welcomed 1.6 million more visitors—increasing from 6.9 million in 2008 to 8.5 million in 2015.

“I think this year the growth has been our branding and messaging campaign. It launched in January 2015, it hit significant metropolitan markets,” she said.

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“We deliver what the audience said they couldn’t believe was in Delaware—it’s zip line, its beautiful parks, it’s scenery, it’s mansions, it’s beaches, and people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that was in Delaware.’”

Tourism accounted for $3.1 billion of Delaware’s gross domestic product—an increase from $1.9 billion in 2008—and created $486 million in taxes and fees for state and local government—an increase from $408 million in 2008—according to the Delaware Tourism Office.

The revenues brought in from tourism allow Delawareans to keep $1,417 in their pockets each tax year. The tourism industry also has created 42,000 jobs—an added 11,000 jobs since 2008—making Delaware the 4th largest private employment sector in the state, the tourism office said.

“40,000 plus employees in our state, really good jobs in hospitality and other sectors, and as we transition from a more industrial economy we need to redevelop old industrial sites, like here in Yorklynn,” Carney said. “We need to find other areas in the economy where there’s growth in jobs for our young people.”

The new data also shows in 2015 2.7 million visitors came from Maryland and 1.3 million visitors came from Pennsylvania. In addition, three quarters of Delaware tourists visited from Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, Washington D.C. and Harrisburg.

“So many businesses are making decisions on where to locate their facilities based on the quality of the work force, proximity of the location to markets, and the quality of life,” Carney said. “When you think of tourism it’s all about quality of life, it’s about attractions, it’s about restaurants, it’s about hospitality, it’s about where young and old people want to spend time, and Delaware is increasingly one of those places, in some ways a best kept secret for some people.”

The beach, tax-free shopping and dining were the top three attractions for tourists, according to the tourism office. Parkowski said her office is also focusing on enticing 20 and 30-somethings.

“We’re working now on attracting a millennial visitor, and the offerings we have with Firefly, with the beer, wine and spirits trail, and geocaching is getting Delaware the reputation of being a bit different than people had previously perceived it as,” Parkowski said.

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