New visitor center promotes New Castle County tourism
WILMINGTON – The Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau officially opened its new visitor center in Wilmington’s Riverfront on Wednesday.
The small storefront spot at the forefront of the Shipyard Center gives the local tourism office a public brick-and-mortar for the first presence in more than two years.
The GWCVB closed its last visitors center in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the small, cash-strapped nonprofit sought to cut spending, said Jen Boes, the bureau’s executive director.
“We had to do it to survive,” she said. “But we found that people were still coming into our offices, even though we didn’t have a visitor center. So, there was definitely still a demand.”
When Boes heard from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, which has offices in the same center, that there was space in the Riverfront available, they jumped on it. The proximity to the county chamber was a bonus, she said.
“Before we had our space here, people were stopping at the chamber for visitor information anyway. So, I see a lot of synergies between the two,” Boes said.
The visitor’s center will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Thursdays to Sundays to start – a big change from the previous visitor center that was only open during the week.
In soft openings earlier this month where the GWCVB manned a booth on the Riverwalk, Boes said they encountered some local convention attendees and many daytrippers coming down from Philadelphia or other Delaware towns. The furthest visitor they met was from Dallas.
The Delaware State Tourism Office reported last month that the state saw record-breaking tourism in 2021 and expected final 2022 numbers to meet or exceed those levels. While beach vacations played a big part of that trend, Boes said that New Castle County also saw bigger post-COVID tourism spikes –they more than doubled their annual Visitors Guide requests last year.
Mainstays destinations like Winterthur and local arts and entertainment played a part in that, but Boes said that Wilmington’s thriving culinary scene, led it part by the growing recognition of concepts like Bardea, The Quoin, La Cavalier and others, has been a significant part of that boom. Industry publication coverage and regional rankings of the culinary scene have also helped.
“It just shows that there is interest there and there is a lot of room to attract more visitors,” she said.