By Tina Coleman, Southern Delaware Tourism

According to the U.S. Travel Association, the latest jobs report finds that 39% of all jobs lost nationwide since the pandemic began are in the Leisure and Hospitality sector and analysis finds that last year the travel industry suffered a nearly $500 billion loss in spending. In fact, since the beginning of March and through the end of 2020, the pandemic has resulted in $492 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. travel economy, equating to a daily loss of approximately $1.6 billion for the past 10 months. 

The continual depressed level of travel spending has caused a loss of $64 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue since last March, according to association figures.

The impacts of the pandemic have most definitely been felt here in Southern Delaware. As a resort destination for which tourism is one of the top two economic drivers supporting more than 18,000 Sussex County jobs, our tourism businesses have taken a huge hit. That said, there are advantages we enjoy over other destinations. With road trips largely perceived as the only relatively safe means of travel, and with Sussex County situated within a four or five hour drive of densely populated east coast metros, we’re a prime destination for road trippers. Our accommodations and tourism businesses have also been quick and nimble in implementing and communicating safety plans and practices that have boosted consumer confidence in traveling here. 

And things are beginning to look up. According to U.S.T.A, half of those surveyed in recent weeks are planning to resume travel once vaccines are widely available. In fact, a quarter of survey participants have talked to friends or family about future travel and have researched travel ideas online. Information from a recent Longwoods International traveler sentiment survey reveals that just over half of (51 percent) American travelers report that their first trip this year will be to visit friends and relatives and the vast majority of trips will be by car. Additionally, 63 percent have plans to travel in the next six months, up from 57 percent in mid-December.

Following the most updated statistics, travel sentiment studies, and poll results gives us a look at not only where the travel industry has been, but where it seems to be headed. This information has been key in formulating and evolving Southern Delaware Tourism’s marketing plans over the last year and especially now, as with vaccines rollouts people are moving on from dreaming about travel to actually planning getaways. Knowing who’s planning travel, when they plan to travel, and how they plan to travel allows SDT to reach out and capture those potential visitors. 

Surveys reveal that Americans are looking for scenic beauty, warm weather outdoor activities, beach destinations, and national parks, with many planning to hit the road for their 2021 vacations. That very nearly describes Southern Delaware to a “T.” Slightly under half of American travelers are expecting to travel for leisure in the next three months; most are waiting until at least April. Additionally, according to a January Harris Poll, consumers are anxious to start spending on the things they have been denied over the last year, like travel, dining and in-person entertainment. They add that more than half of American consumers have put away some money this year and there’s a savings dam that’s about to burst. Finally, according to Longwoods International, fewer than one in 10 American travelers indicated they do NOT currently have 2021 travel plans. This all bodes extremely well for tourism in Southern Delaware over the coming months. 

If you are a tourism partner looking for information on relief resources, visit the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Industry Relief Resources webpage at This page provides access to information about relief provided by the COVID-19 Relief Bill passed in December and is updated regularly, so check it often.