Q&A with Linda Parkowski, Delaware State Tourism Office.
From beaches to historic sites to a focus on the future, tourism is a major industry – it’s the fourth-largest private employer in the state, providing jobs for more than 39,000 people statewide.
Linda Parkowski of the Delaware State Tourism Office explained why there’s so much to do in such a small state.
BY THE NUMBERS
♦ $580 -- average amount spent by tourists
♦ $451 million generated by tourism in state and local government taxes and fees
♦ 7.5 million visitors in 2013
Source: Delaware State Tourism Office
Q What are our major tourist attractions?
A In New Castle County, you have the du Pont mansions. Winterthur and Nemours are two of the most beautiful and elegant estates on the East Coast. Once homes for Delaware’s best-known family, both are now open to the public. Each has a unique style – the natural feel of Winterthur and the palace-like feel of Nemours.
In Kent County the Air Mobility Command Museum is the top-rated attraction in the state. It’s the only museum in the world dedicated to planes used for military transport. The facility’s ever-growing collection of planes includes a C-5 and a plane frequently used as Air Force Two.
And of course, there are the beaches in Sussex County. Delaware’s beaches attract millions of visitors to the state every summer. The Natural Resource Defense Council has rated their waters the cleanest on the East Coast. Each beach town – from Rehoboth to Dewey to Bethany – has a different flavor, meaning there’s something for everyone.
Q What are the major trends in tourism in the state?
A Craft alcohol tourism -- New breweries, distilleries, cideries, meaderies and wineries have been popping up all over Delaware over the past few years. The Delaware Beer, Wine and Spirits Trail has ballooned in that time. Dogfish Head remains the major craft alcohol draw in the state and its popularity helps draw people to other, newer options.
Word of mouth/social media -- Whether it’s TripAdvisor, Yelp or any number of hotel booking sites, people are using online reviews more and more to make travel decisions. Knowing where other people have been, what they’ve done and how they’ve liked it provides great information ahead of a trip to Delaware. Travelers are also big into getting their info from social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Q What about up-and-coming events?
A OperaDelaware -- The organization is trying a very different setup for its 2016 season – lots
of performances packed into back-to-back weekends. Voices combine and bring the emotion and power of opera to thousands of music lovers at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington. It will be the first time OperaDelaware has performed at The Grand since 2013. This year’s performances are Shakespeare-inspired, “Hamlet” and “Falstaff.” The festival is May 14, 15 and May 19 through May 22.
Q If you received a request from someone who had never been here and knew nothing about Delaware, what would you recommend to best exemplify the First State?
A To begin your journey to Delaware, you should go to visitdelaware.com. You can explore travel ideas, book hotels and read reviews about attractions throughout the state. From there, one of the best ways to see Delaware is to take one of Delaware’s Trails of Discovery. Each has a unique set of locations to visit connecting the state’s history, food, drink and outdoor activities. If a person wants a little flavor of each county, the duPont mansions, the First State Heritage Park in Dover and the beaches are a great one, two, three punch. Beyond this, discover tips in a blog post called “Your First Trip to Delaware.” It has our suggestions for the things to do that best show off the state.
Q What do you think about cancellation of Punkin Chunkin and Big Barrel and of the possible cancellation of Delaware Junction?
A Major events have significant impact on tourism in Delaware. We think the state has proven it has the facilities and infrastructure to host large-scale events. We are hopeful another festival organizer will see the state’s merits and potential.