They’ve used billboards and TV spots, magazine spreads and internet ads. Now, Delaware Tourism leaders are trying out virtual reality to draw more visitors to the state.
During an event inside the century-old Nemours Mansion in Wilmington, state tourism director Liz Keller unveiled Delaware 360, a roughly three-minute video offering a 360-degree view of some of the top tourist destinations in the First State.
“Our idea is to be where the consumer is, which is technology,” she said. “We know they’re on their mobile devices, so we want to be there and provide them every resource possible to become more aware of Delaware.”
VR viewers can take a virtual canoe trip among the cypress trees at Trap Pond State Park in Sussex County, walk along the Rehoboth boardwalk, or get a look at the Hagley Museum along the banks of the Brandywine River where the DuPont Company was born.
The state has been working to highlight those destinations since launching the “Endless Discoveries” tourism tag line in 2015.
“The perception of Delaware was just that Delaware was here. A lot of people knew about our beaches, but they didn’t know about all these discoveries like Nemours Estate or Trap Pond State Park, so throughout the years with Endless Discoveries, we’ve been able to raise a lot more awareness,” Keller said.
In addition to hosting the unveiling, Nemours is also featured in the 360 video. Executive director for the estate, John Rumm hopes the mansion’s growing number of visitors will be buoyed by the VR tour.
“We’re seeing about 30 percent of our visitors coming from outside of the United States,” Rumm said. “I think it’s indicative of this real fascination with this place.”
Even without the VR tour, visitors to the mansion have already increased from 15,000 in 2016 to 25,000 in 2016.
Gov. John Carney, who worked at Nemours mowing lawns and helping install air conditioning at the mansion in the mid-70s, strapped on a set of VR goggles to take a tour of his own.
“Not only are we here to celebrate travel and tourism week, more importantly, we’re here to celebrate Delaware history,” Carney said. “You’ll be able to see a 360-degree version of Bombay Hook and all the beaches and all the wonderful places across our state.”
For a small state, tourism plays a large role in Delaware’s economy. In 2016, 9 million people visited the state, generating $3.3 billion in economic activity and helping employ 43,000 workers, according to the latest numbers from the Value of Tourism report. Tourism activity contributes $504 million in revenue for state and local governments, Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. He called the 360 video “a perfect marriage of technology and tourism.”
The video can be seen at VisitDelaware.com. The VR headset will also be demonstrated this week for travelers stopping at the Delaware Welcome Center Travel Plaza on I-95. Tourism leaders will also take the VR demonstration on the road to travel and tourism shows around the country.