Quaint Villages define new Kent tourism strategy

Kent County Tourism is on the upside of an identity crisis. In April, the bureau launched a new website and a general rebrand, and is reveling in an uptick in interest and visitors.

With Kent County often designated as a NASCAR destination or simply called, “The Middle,” the tourism bureau employed a marketing agency to distill the county’s offerings into a catchy slogan and tagline that promised more than racetracks and a summer concert.

The new slogan “Delaware’s Quaint Villages” and tagline “At Your Own Pace” were unveiled this spring. Kent County Tourism also shuffled its board of directors, adding members who represent a broader swath of county organizations, businesses and events, according to Wendie Vestfall, president of Kent County Tourism.

“We invested a lot of marketing dollars into the area,” said Vestfall. Washington D.C.-based Delucchi Plus (now Streetsense), an agency that specializes in tourism organizations, promised a $12.3 million economic impact by June 2018 for a $300,000 marketing investment. The goal is to accelerate tourism and economic impact by more than $100 million in the next three to five years.

Vestfall said she is already seeing results.

“Since the launch of the new website (www.VisitDelawareVillages.com) in early April, we have now seen over 100,000 visitors to the site in a little over six months,” she said.

Early results showed that the email database had grown by 230 percent since fall 2016.

The new marketing campaign showcases Kent County’s 20 incorporated towns — including Viola, Kenton, and Bowers Beach — that connect Smyrna to Milford. Several of them, like Bowers Beach, are sleepy seaside “villages” that Vestfall said are worth a visit — especially from tourists from harried markets like New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Each “village” is highlighted on the bureau’s website, which also features a steady of menu of scheduled events and activities.

“They’re [from] big cities and people are so plugged in and hyped up to their jobs. This is what they associate with us — a chance for them to unwind,” said Vestfall. “Every town has their own unique personality.”

Kent County Tourism also unveiled a new Mobile Visitor Center in partnership with Chesapeake Utilities.
It’s like an information kiosk on wheels, dubbed “The Villager,” that aims to increase the number of visitors to local attractions, restaurants and retail establishments.

“The mobile visitor center can a travel to the various cities and towns during peak times, which enables us to provide better service to the areas we promote and proactively engage with locals and visitors on what to do in Kent County,” said Vestfall. “It will allow us to assist with making tour arrangement, recommendations on attractions and dining and more for large groups that will be attending DE Turf tournaments, Firefly, NASCAR races and various meetings at hotels and attractions.”

The mobile visitor center is a 250 Ford Transit that has been converted to bi-fuel and is equipped to run on CNG fuel from Chesapeake Utilities and gasoline as backup. With the mobile visitor center running on CNG fuel, it will help minimize the center’s environmental footprint.

“The goal is to bring more money into Kent County so we can continue to grow and thrive as a community,” Vestfall said.

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