The number of out-of-state travelers who come to Delaware each year received an enormous boost with the arrival of the Firefly Music Festival three years ago which completed its four-day run last week.
That momentum is about to accelerate thanks to the launch this summer of two new country music festivals – Big Barrel from June 26-28 in Dover and Delaware Junction from Aug. 16-18 in Harrington.
In addition a lineup of popular musicians is scheduled at Delaware State Fair and at the Freeman Stage ay Bayside.
Organizers last week predicted attendance numbers to reach as high as 90,000 at Firefly and 35,000 at Big Barrel. Together, the events may generate $90 million to $100 million in economic impact, organizers said.
“Bottom line, this is a year when travelers have more reasons to come to Delaware, more money to spend while they are here, and more things to spend it on,” said Linda Parkowski, director of the Delaware Tourism Office. “With all the music festivals heading our way, the beaches are just one of many reasons that Delaware is becoming a great summer destination.”
Parkowski said Delaware’s tourism outlook for summer 2015 also stands to benefit from a strengthening U.S. economy. Tourism contributed $2.9 billion to the gross domestic product of Delaware in 2013, the latest figures available. That’s up from $2.2 billion in 2012.
In 2013, the state’s tourism industry:
• Attracted 7.5 million visitors, up from 7.3 million in 2012
• Supported 39,400 employees,up from 38,810 in 2012
• Stood as the fourth largest private employer in the state
• Generated $451 million in state and local government taxes and fees, up from $441 million in 2012
In 2015, Parkowski said, thousands of additional consumers became more aware of Delaware’s appeal as a destination due to a lineup of television commercials broadcast on cable channels across the East Coast, along with a print advertising campaign that included such top national magazines as Good Housekeeping, Oprah and Southern Living.
“We expect the ‘Endless Discoveries’ marketing campaign to make a real difference for Delaware’s tourism industry,” Parkowski said. “We’re already seeing a rise in the level of interest among travelers – some are quite honestly amazed to learn how much there is to do and see in Delaware.”
Delaware’s beach resorts also got a nationwide public relations boost earlier in 2015 when Rehoboth Beach made two prominent “Top 10” lists, including Family Vacation Critic’s list of the 10 best U.S. beaches for families in 2015; and the USA Today Readers’ Choice poll for “Best Coastal Small Town.”
“These rankings tend to have a lot of impact on travelers, especially in an age when people are constantly connected to the Internet and to each other,” Parkowski said. “These days, when something creates a ‘buzz,’ it can be felt and heard around the world in a matter of hours. Just think about that Dover Police officer’s ‘Shake if Off’ dash-cam performance.”
At the Delaware beaches, 31 restaurants are scheduled to open or unveil a major expansion at the beach In 2015, at least seven restaurants statewide are opening as brewpubs or beer-focused businesses, or expanding operations to include brewing.
“We launched the Beer, Wine and Spirits Trail in Delaware because we had a strong sense the growth would continue,” Parkowski said.
“Since the trail opened in 2010, we’ve had to expand it three times. The latest wave is coming in part from distilleries, but the brewpub phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down.”
There are also two major hotels opening at the beaches this season – the 112-room Bethany Beach Ocean Suites and the 94-room Fairfield Inn and Suites in Rehoboth Beach.
Other positive signs of the state’s increasing status as a destination and the health of the tourism industry include:
• Delaware’s recent rise from 4th place to 3rd place in the League of American Bicyclists’ rankings of bike-friendly states.
• Earlier this year, AAA Mid-Atlantic awarded three hotels and one restaurant in Delaware with its Four Diamond Award, the top quality rating that AAA bestows. The winners were the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Dover, and the Hotel du Pont’s restaurant, The Green Room, which earned the award for the 30th consecutive year.
• The convenient and popular mobile payment app Parkmobile – which lets travelers avoid the hassle of feeding meters manually – is available for the first time this summer in Bethany Beach and Lewe. It already had been available in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach.