Delaware's tourism industry is a $2.1 billion reality

March 27, 2012
Linda Parkowski is the director of tourism for the Delaware Office of Economic Development. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Take a moment. Imagine an industry or – even more specifically – a Delaware business, which you consider to have a substantial positive economic impact on our state. Then take a moment to think about it. Envision a business sector that has excelled during these challenging times. Really, picture this economic driver in your mind. Does your vision consist of pumpkins, Civil War encampment and Colonial attire?  Little League World Series and national sports tournaments? Museums and beaches? It doesn’t?  Then let’s talk reality – the reality of tourism.

Tourism contributed $2.1 billion – yes, billion - to Delaware’s economy in 2010. Over seven million people visit our state every year.  Yes, visit. They don’t just drive through. People visit Delaware and they spend. They splurge on shopping, dining, entertainment, lodging and transportation. All of which supports Delaware’s small businesses and our local communities.

It’s okay if you didn’t identify tourism’s measurable economic impact in your initial vision. Many Delawareans don’t. That will change. It will change the moment you read the next sentence. Without Tourism in the First State, each Delaware household would pay an additional $114 in taxes.  And that’s just to maintain current the levels of state and local taxes. Again – that’s an additional $114 in taxes for every Delaware household!  In 2010, Delaware tourism generated $400 million in state and local government taxes and fees.  Interestingly, Delaware state and local tourism tax revenue grew at nearly twice the rate of overall state tax receipts.

Tourism in Delaware is one business sector that has fared well even in tough economic times. But you may not understand how it continues to thrive. Delaware is within easy driving distance for 10 million people.  It’s times such as these that people tend to visit places they can easily travel to by car, bus or train.  Delaware is centrally located among major metropolitan areas and is a more affordable, convenient option.  Simply put, when people travel, the economy grows, jobs are created and the tax coffers are filled.

Obviously, without jobs, all other spending slows down or stops.  As the third-largest private employer in the state, tourism employs 39,000 people.  The tourism industry employs the greeter and server, the housekeeper and chef, the hotel and retail clerk, driver and tour guide, and the managers - all important roles to ensure a memorable experience and to make certain visitors will return to Delaware often.

Before this moment is over, let’s revisit the initial vision. The vision, you now know as – the reality of tourism. Pumpkins, Civil War encampment, Colonial attire, Little League World Series, national sports tournaments, museums and beaches.

Consider the economic impact on Bridgeville when 100,000 people converge on the town for the annual World Famous Punkin Chunkin Championship or the 30,000 people who visit for the annual Apple-Scrapple Festival or the millions of people who frequent Delaware beaches.  How about the people who come from all over the world to watch the Little League World Series of Softball or take part in a national sports tournament?  Consider the players, coaches, judges, referees, chaperones and family members who all need to eat, sleep, shop and travel as well as enjoy the sights while they are here.  All this amounts to a significant economic impact when taking into account just one of these events.

In this parting moment, let’s agree to never take the value of the Delaware tourism industry for granted. And together, let’s educate Delawareans about the reality of tourism and how it positively impacts the people of this great state.  It is an industry that thrives while generating tax revenues, creating jobs at all income levels, rallying communities and enhancing the quality of life for all Delawareans!

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