State of confusion might be an apt slogan for Delaware tourism this summer.
While the industry has seen significant losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of it can be chalked up to people just not understanding what the rules are.
“There’s lots of confusion,” said Carol Everhart, the president and CEO of the Rehoboth Dewey Chamber of commerce.
“There’s so many various regulations by so many different organizations that visitors get confused,” she said.
People don’t seem to want to vacation somewhere they don’t exactly know the rules.
Delaware being on the quarantine lists of several other states also has had negative effects. Delaware was on the quarantine lists for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania for about a week, came off for about a week and went back on.
The lists are tied to specific COVID-19 numbers.
“The tourism industry saw large scale cancellations for the period of time Delaware was on the quarantine list” the first time, said Elizabeth Keller, director of The Delaware Tourism Office.
These cancellations hit hotels and other housing, car and boat rentals.
“(Some businesses) are now closing on Monday and Tuesday; they’ve had to make that decision,” said Everhart.
Many already had been reporting a 60% to 70% loss this year, Everhart said.
The weekend of the Fourth of July offered a stunning example. Gov. John Carney and state officials had asked bars to close to try to keep the COVID-19 virus from circulating among young people, and had banned fireworks displays for the same reason, including one in Dewey Beach.
“Cancellations at hotels and motels that night resulted in an $833,000 loss of revenue,” said Everhart. “It’s gone from surreal to eerie to scary.”
Most recently, the mandate that required beach goers to wear masks on the beach caused cancellations at hotels in the area after The Fourth of July.
The Delaware Tourism Office is trying to help.
It’s developed a Go-To Guide for tourists on how to safely visit Delaware and what to expect when they arrive to try to bring in more tourists, Keller side.
The office is also offering suggestions to tourists that are tailored to their interests.
“For residents we’re highlighting local discoveries focusing on outdoor activities,” Keller said.
At the same time, she said, the office is “asking industry partners and visitors to stay vigilant, adhering to the guidelines provided by the Division of Public Health and helping keep the curve down.”
Compliance is individual to individual, Everhart said.
“Most people comply with them but there are some that make their own independent decisions,” Everhart said. “These mandates need to be followed.”
While restaurants, hotels and gift shops remain empty compared to most summers, some scenic outdoor tourism has been thriving.
“Some outdoor locations, such as hiking and biking trails, are seeing more visitors than ever before,” Keller said. “Others have pivoted their visitor experiences to help people explore safely.”
Beaches, hiking, bike paths, and even certain historical outdoor tours are operating safely at this time.
Everhart said the beaches hoped to be in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan by now, which would have allowed more people inside businesses.
“Right now, we’re still in phase two,” Everhard said. “And I think that’s hurting business.”