By Tina Coleman, Southern Delaware Tourism

Surveys tell us all kinds of interesting things. Did you know that prior to the pandemic, U.S. employees only used about 51 percent of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off? And that since July of 2020, 92 percent of workers have cancelled, postponed, or didn’t book a vacation due to the pandemic? (Source IPX 1031, July 8 – 10, Survey of 2,207 Americans aged 18 – 79 with an average age of 36.) 

For workers who are permitted to roll over unused vacation time, that’s a lot of pent-up travel demand when they feel conditions allow. Southern Delaware saw a lot of them this past year, and we’re likely to see even more of them in 2022.

And what have these potential visitors been missing out on and are presumably the most anxious to resume? According to the US Travel Association, the top leisure travel activities for US domestic travelers pre-pandemic were, in order of preference, (1) visiting relatives; (2) shopping; (3) visiting friends; (4) fine dining; and (5) rural sightseeing. This is great news for Southern Delaware because we’ve got them all, plus a lot more.

Along with the increasing influx of new residents to Southern Delaware come visiting family and friends, who become acquainted with all our area has to offer. Our tax free shopping and vibrant retail community is very attractive to people from surrounding states, our 5 star beaches have always been, and remain, a huge attraction, and our Culinary Coast™ continues to expand and attract nationwide attention, making Southern Delaware a foodie mecca for travelers from the Mid Atlantic and beyond.

While it may not always be easy dealing with the summertime traffic headaches and crowded conditions, tourism is a fact of life here and the natural beauty of the area, the events, attractions, and restaurants that bring in the tourists are what make this such a great place for all of us to live, work and play. Tourism pays big dividends for us, too. Nineteen thousand Sussex County residents are employed in tourism related positions. Tourism generates $2.1 billion in visitor spending each year in Sussex County and, for each dollar spent by a visitor, another $1.20 is generated in indirect sales to our local economy. It attracts new businesses (and jobs) to our county, and saves each of our households nearly $1,600 in taxes each year.

Tourism is a huge win for all of us because it not only supports us economically, but it encourages us to work together as a community to protect, sustain, and expand the resources that support it including our waterways, wetlands, parks, trails, and infrastructure, all of which benefits our visitors during their stays with us, certainly, but also benefits all of us year-round.

Each year, Southern Delaware Tourism does its own survey. We encourage our visitors to complete questionnaires that help us determine what they like best about visiting here, how long they visit, where they stay when they visit, what they enjoy most about Southern Delaware, what we could do better, where they’re visiting from, how old they are, their household income and when they prefer to visit. 

Southern Delaware Tourism is currently in the process of tallying the responses of its 2021 Visitors Survey, the results of which will be available soon. 

Our office uses these survey results along with our website and social media analytics, reader responses from our print and digital advertising, and other tools to help us hone the focus of our marketing and outreach efforts to attract groups and individual visitors to Southern Delaware throughout the year.

As 2021 draws to a close, we look forward to new opportunities in 2022, and we thank all of our local tourism partners for their ongoing support.