Cape Gazette
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Commentary

Delaware’s travel, tourism industry: An economic perk for the state

By Carrie Leishman and Scott Thomas | Oct 15, 2013

Summer’s end is particularly bittersweet for all of us here in Delaware. With our coastline and cities offering ample opportunity for leisure and entertainment, Delaware is a place whose residents fully embrace the summer season and the chance to enjoy family and friends amidst our state’s beautiful surroundings.

You’ll be happy to hear that we are not alone. In fact, visitors from across the U.S. and around the globe agree with us. Our state is a growing destination for not only our immediate neighbors in the mid-Atlantic region, but also domestic visitors from as far away as California, and international visitors from all over the world. As partners in promoting the allure, beauty, and accessibility of our state’s many attractions, we could not be more proud to showcase Delaware and all it has to offer for today’s traveler seeking fun and family-friendly environments.

You may be surprised to learn that these growing trends in visitation and tourism place Delaware’s travel and tourism industry as the state’s third largest employer, with nearly 40,000 workers. Statistics also reveal that the average out-of-state visitor to Delaware spends over $500 per trip.

When you consider that in 2011 we had over 7.2 million visitors, that’s a big jolt to our state’s economy.

In sum, the travel and tourism industry in Delaware, which includes hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks, to name just a few businesses, accounts for over $2 billion annually in our economy. Moreover, this economic activity injects over $430 million into state and local government tax coffers annually. Without this infusion of revenue, each Delaware household would pay an additional $1,309 to maintain current tax levels.

This industry is ubiquitous across our state, and businesses of all kinds are key partners in our state’s economic revival. But we know we can do more. Congress plays a big role in promoting the nation’s growth through travel and tourism. That is why the U.S. Senate’s compromise immigration reform legislation included several far-reaching measures that would boost our nation’s and Delaware’s tourism industries.

Among several tourism-friendly provisions, the legislation would reform the Visa Waiver Program, which will enable additional countries that meet several important security requirements to allow its citizens visa-free travel to our country. Other provisions provide the U.S. State Department, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, to waive in-person visa interview requirements for travelers who are low security threats.

This measure affords greater attention to higher-risk travelers while reducing red tape for low-risk visitors. Finally, the U.S. Senate agreed that a permanent reauthorization of BrandUSA, a public-private marketing partnership to encourage U.S. visitation internationally, was clear opportunity to bolster travel and tourism within our borders.

Recently, we all had the chance to meet in Lewes with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, where we discussed these strategies and additional infrastructure-related improvements that can continue to improve our state’s tourism numbers. We are excited to work together, along with all travel and tourism partners throughout the state, to promote Delaware’s many attractions that draw visitors of all kinds.

Carrie Leishman is president/CEO, Delaware Restaurant Association. Scott Thomas is executive director, Southern Delaware Tourism

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