A follow-up to a previous column on what appears to be a slightly slower summer in Coastal Sussex County.
Coverage of the tourism outlook downstate has led to a debate of sorts in Sussex County on the size of the downturn or whether it actually took place.
Delmarva TV stations highlighted what some merchants viewed as slower conditions, with other media reporting no big change. Granted, much of the early downturn could be blamed on the weather. June is always an uncerrtain month.
Motorists have not seen much change in the frequent gridlock on Coastal Highway and other routes that occurs long after the peak season.
Tourism officials prefer talking about activity after the peak season, and nearby Ocean City, MD seemed to follow that script with glowing reports.
One yardstick, hotel vacancies, has risen slightly in Coastal Sussex, but that may be due to more rooms coming online in response to a strong market. Rates remain on the high side, and that’s good news for the lodging industry.
We also know that Americans are traveling further afield this year after limiting trips during the Covid-19 pandemic. That trend was in evidence last year, after an extremely strong 2021.
On a related note, the discussion on social media morphed into comments on the loss of affordable lodging at the beach.
That trend has been going on for decades, due to additional year-round residents and the lure of demolishing beach houses and building bigger and more profitable rentals in their place. Some summer visitors opted for locations in the Carolinas.
This year’s best-known beach visitors are President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, who opted for a weekly stay after vacationing elsewhere in past years. It has been reported that the president, at least until now, worried about contributing to the crowded conditions in Rehoboth.
Earlier this week, the First Couple took in a movie (Oppenheimer) and had dinner at Matt’s Fish House, both off Coastal Highway and away from the main drag in Rehoboth.
The second most famous visitor, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, has been a no-show in recent years. The Foos launched a tour that will run into 2024.
To the north, Kent County is seeing sluggish conditions in the hotel market and is bracing for the loss this year of the Firefly Music Festival for the year, with the two NASCAR weekends now down to one.
New Castle County is seeing signs of an uptick in business travel, with the arrival of Avelo Airlines bringing in passengers to Delaware, some from its more than two dozen destinations in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.