Delaware tourism industry posts record economic performance

May 21, 2023

Delaware’s crucial tourism industry is once again proving its resilience and vitality, rebounding from the global pandemic to post a record economic performance in 2021, the Delaware Tourism Office reported recently.

Total visitor volume rose by more than 17% to set a new Delaware record of 9.8 million overnight visitors in 2021, the most recent year studied in the annual report commissioned by the Delaware Tourism Office. The tourism industry contributed $4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product that year and regained its place as the fourth-largest private-sector employer in the state, comprising 9% of all private-sector jobs.

“As a Delaware native, I know that our state is filled with things to do, from the top of our state to our world-class beaches in Sussex County. But it’s not just residents who know the great things in Delaware — we’re seeing a record-breaking number of visitors to the First State,” said Gov. John Carney. “Delaware’s tourism industry is thriving, and we look forward to welcoming even more visitors to our state this year.”

The tourism industry saw significant job growth in 2021, reaching 47,760 jobs. Much of tourism’s employment rebound centered on the hotel, restaurant and entertainment sectors, the very industries that suffered most during the pandemic. In 2021, 10,900 tourism jobs were created, making up more than 64% of all new jobs in Delaware that year, according to the study by Rockport Analytics and Longwoods International.

“This report demonstrates that tourism-related jobs can bounce back quickly and strongly after being hit so hard during the pandemic,” said Jeffrey Bullock, Delaware secretary of state. “That speedy recovery tells us a lot about the enduring appeal of Delaware as a vacation destination.”

Visitor spending in 2021 topped $5.9 billion, a 30% increase from 2020 and a new record. Per-person daily spending was 165% higher than the national average. The jump in visitor spending was due largely to higher visitor volume, longer stays, more spending per trip, and inflation. Delaware’s economy was able to keep 66 cents of each tourism dollar spent in the state during 2021.

“The tourism industry is vital to Delaware’s economy, providing thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue,” said Jessica Welch, Delaware Tourism Office director. “As evidenced by this latest study, tourism is rebounding significantly after a tough year in 2020. This rebound would not have been possible without the work of our partners in the industry. Their collaborative efforts are paying off and will be instrumental in the continued growth of the travel and tourism industry in our state.”

Tourism remains a larger contributor to the state’s gross domestic product than all private sectors except healthcare, finance and retail. In 2021, total tourism-initiated tax receipts reached $1 billion for the first time, contributing $620 million in state and local taxes. The study also found that without tourism revenue, each of Delaware’s 381,000-plus households would have to pay an additional $1,608 annually in taxes to maintain current tax revenue totals.

The Delaware Tourism Office, part of the Delaware Division of Small Business, promotes tourism and economic growth in Delaware. 

For more information and to view the 2021 Value of Tourism report, go to


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