Milford Catalyzing on DE Tourism Impact

Downtown Milford’s Eat in the Street event. Photo Source: Photo By John Mollura.
Downtown Milford’s Eat in the Street event. Photo Source: Photo By John Mollura.

Staff Report

Accrording to the Delaware Tourism Office, tourism brought more people and more money to Delaware than ever before in 2014 making clear the growing value of the industry to the state. New data published on February 22, 2016 shows eight million tourists came to Delaware during 2014, up from 7.5 million in 2013. Those visitors are also staying longer than ever before with an average stay lasting nearly two and a half days.

Tourism contributed $3 billion to Delaware’s gross domestic product. That accounts for 5 % of the state’s entire GDP. and the industry generated $470 million in taxes and fees for state and local government, which is another jump over 2013’s number. In a press release from the Delaware Tourism Office, if the revenue generated from tourism was taken away, each Delaware household would have to pay an extra $1,360 a year in taxes.

The tourism sector is directly responsible for nearly 41,000 jobs in Delaware, also an increase from its 2013 total. One in nine workers in the state owes his or her job to tourism, which accounted for 14 percent of Delaware’s net new jobs in 2014.The rental home market continued to boom in Delaware, especially at the beaches. In fact, for the first time ever it eclipsed the $1-billion mark in Sussex County on the back of strong occupancy and rising rates. Rental revenue statewide grew 8.8 percent between 2013 and 2014.

“Tourism is clearly an economic engine and growth industry in Delaware. It positively impacts the state’s businesses, workers and tax revenue,” said Linda Parkowski, Director of the Delaware Tourism Office. “We believe recent efforts to improve Delaware’s brand regionally will move it forward even more.”

Last October Milford City Council voted unanimously to accept a USDA grant for $13,000 to conduct a study on the feasibility of tourism in Milford. The cost of the study was $15,000, with the remaining $2,000 coming from the City’s Economic Development fund. Graduate students from the University of Delaware Hotel Restaurant Institutional Management school have begun the study as the project is still in the research phase. The City of Milford hopes to evaluate the recommendations from University of Delaware and use the marketing data to focus their overall marketing efforts. The students have been interviewing residents, business owners and visitors to the town to learn what drew them to Milford, what types of tourist attractions they would find suitable and how the appeal of the state could help Milford in key markets.

The Delaware Tourism Office states that the appeal of Delaware remained strong in Delaware’s key markets. Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Washington, DC, and Harrisburg residents made up three quarters of visitors.“We’ve increased our media campaign for Delaware – including, for the first time, TV spots,” said Parkowski. “We have targeted places like Philadelphia and New York City. We know that effort will help grow awareness across the Mid-Atlantic of everything there is to discover in Delaware.”The most popular activities for tourists were shopping, dining and going to the beach. And tourists continued to spend heavily while in Delaware, averaging $573 spent per trip.

Downtown Milford Inc., (DMI) a local non-profit engaged with promoting downtown Milford, promotes numerous events, like the Bug & Bud Festival and Brewgrass, continues to work alongside six Delaware towns as a collaborative tourism effort. Eat, Drink, Buy Art on Delmarva is a regional campaign to promote downtown arts and culture districts. The initiative has launched a website, mobile app and a Facebook page to lists artists, art venues, restaurants and events in each area participating that can found at Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI) was introduced to the group by the Delaware Division of the Arts. Director of DMI, Lee Nelson said the collaboration has allowed Milford to increase its exposure across the region as visitors and locals to all 18 participating towns are able to see what Milford has to offer through collaborative promotions and marketing.

“It not only promotes Milford, but we also find out what people are saying about Milford,” said Nelson. “We all work together to promote tourism and help each other on what has worked or not worked for us. And the advertising costs are substantially lower divided by 18.”

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