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Welch takes over state tourism office

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DOVER — Jessica Welch, the communications director of the state Division of Small Business, has been appointed the new director of the Delaware Tourism Office (DTO).

Jessica Welch | PHOTO COURTESY OF VISITDELAWARE.COM

She succeeds Elizabeth Keller, who left the office in July to lead the Committee of 100, a non-partisan, nonprofit association of Delaware business leaders that works to promote responsible economic development.

Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, under whose department the tourism office falls, said Welch “brings an immense wealth of knowledge and experience to take on this crucial role in Delaware’s economy.”

“The Tourism Office contributes billions each year to the state’s [gross domestic product] and creates thousands of jobs in the process. As Delaware continues to be a preferred tourist destination, I know Jessica will expand upon the work done so far to continue attracting out-of-state visitors while promoting the prosperity of existing tourism businesses in the state,” Bullock said in a Monday statement announcing the pick.

On Thursday, Welch said she was a lifelong Delawarean who has lived in all three counties and has spent her career in journalism and marketing here in her home state.

“I have a true love of Delaware. I think it’s an amazing place,” the Dover resident said.

In her time as the communications director for the Delaware Division of Small Business, Welch got to know Keller and her tourism team. When Keller announced that he was going to leave, Welch said that she felt drawn to the position.

“I thought long and hard about it, but I told myself, ‘If you don’t go after this, you’re going to regret it,’” she said.

Welch takes over the state’s tourism marketing operations at a time when public awareness of the First State is likely at an all-time due to President Joe Biden’s residency here and the recently concluded PGA Tour BMW Championship that brought more than 110,000 people to Wilmington along with four days of national TV coverage.

The DTO works to attract large volumes of out-of-state visitors to Delaware through advertising and marketing campaigns, travel publications, and year-round efforts to bring group tours and sports events to the state. The office regularly partners with Delaware businesses, counties and municipalities to heighten their appeal as tourist destinations, helping them enhance their marketing efforts, and giving them the tools to boost visitation responsibly.

“We would love to see events like the BMW Championship come to Delaware,” she said. “We’ll make even more effort in terms of sports tourism to get those large events here but also to get the smaller events, as our bread and butter is really the travel tournaments that come to DE Turf and elsewhere.”

Welch expects to pick up some initiatives from her predecessor, including boosting marketing of Delaware as a destination to select cities like Boston and Chicago that have tested well. The DTO will also cater a campaign aimed at solo travelers, an industry niche that has grown in the wake of the COVID pandemic as people no longer put off vacationing if they can’t get friends or family to do so with them, Welch said.

In her own new initiatives, Welch said that she wanted DTO to increase its usage of video and social media to spread its campaigns, especially on TikTok, the video-based platform popular with younger users.

“People watch videos all the time now, and I think we definitely would like to do more of that if we can,” she said.

While she has knowledge about many of Delaware’s amenities and attractions, one holds a special place in her heart: Hagley Museum & Library in Alapocas, where she previously served as marketing manager.

“You need to go to Hagley. It’s a great starting point for the mansions and gardens region of Delaware,” she said.

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