Tourism is big business in Sussex County, Delaware, and the proof is in the numbers, according to Matt Parker, chair of Southern Delaware Tourism and a financial planner.
In fiscal year 2023, Sussex County generated $2.7 billion in visitor spending, he noted at the Annual Tourism Awards Luncheon, held Wednesday at Lighthouse Cove Event Center in Dewey Beach.
“This is real money and a real impact,” Parker told the room of tourism industry members and government officials.
“For every dollar spent, another $1.20 goes right back into our local economy—dining out, going to the beach, camping, enjoying the great outdoors,” he continued.
Moreover, tourism saves each Delaware $1,608 in taxes a year, he added.
The luncheon did more than toot tourism’s horn. It saluted movers and shakers who contribute to the county’s success.
Take, for instance, Chef Dru Tevis, the keynote speaker, who is part of the number one visitor activity: dining.
Tevis is the pastry chef for SoDel Concepts, a Rehoboth Beach-based hospitality group with restaurants from Milford to Fenwick Island.
The colorful chef garnered national attention last year when he won the “Holiday Baking Championship” on the Food Network.
Tevis said he was proud of the area’s dining scene.
“I know from personal experience that there’s nothing anyone else is doing in food across this whole country that we aren’t doing right here,” he said.
Cheers, crabs and shorebirds
This year’s award winners exemplified the same passion and attention to detail.
The June 3, 2023, event included 15 restaurants offering 2-ounce pours and complimentary appetizers.
The event joins the Gumbo Crawl and Community Unity Dinner as a vital Rehoboth Beach Main Street fundraiser.
Meanwhile, the Best Event honoree started in 2000 as a distinctly Delaware festival.
“This event, without a doubt, is a true economic driver, as well as a supreme tourist attraction … for southern Delaware,” said presenter Bonnie Hall, immediate past chair of Southern Delaware Tourism.
The festival is on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
Fun on wheels
Carol Everhart, a Southern Delaware Tourism board member and longtime president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, presented the Best Attraction Award.
“I’ll give you two clues: it rolls and is happy,” she said. “Got any ideas? How about Jolly Trolly?”
Everhart said the World’s Original Jolly Trolley, which started in 1970, was the first transportation service in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach.
The Hastings family expanded the business to include private charters and fleet vehicles that take passengers to airports, train stations and cruise terminals.
The Bethany Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce received the philanthropic award.
Last year, the chamber not only promoted the Quiet Resorts, but it also raised nearly $85,000 for local nonprofit organizations, such as the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, Beebe Healthcare’s South Coastal Emergency Department and Cancer Center, and Indian River School District art programs.
Marie Mayor received the Tourism Legacy Award. Mayor and the late Sharon Harris purchased a lavender farm outside Milton more than 20 years ago to create Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor.
Visitors come to photograph the stalky purple flowers, walk the labyrinth and purchase artisan soaps, lotions and teas.
Mayor, however, did not confine her contributions to the farm.
She is the past president of the Milton Historical Society board of trustees and has served on the boards of the Milton Theatre and the Milton Chamber of Commerce. She is also a past chair of Southern Delaware Tourism. Mayor recently sold the farm to Cait Spieker-Gee, who plans to keep it as an attraction.
Award presenter Karen Falk, executive director of the Milton Chamber of Commerce, called Mayor a “steadfast trailblazer.”
“Her legacy and her contributions to tourism in southern Delaware and beyond—particularly agritourism—will live on indefinitely,” Falk said. “We are so very proud of you, Marie.”
Share this Post