by Kathy Canavan
Visitors spent $4.39 billion in Delaware in 2015 - most of it in New Castle County.
Delaware played host to 8.5 million tourists in 2015 - and 47 percent of them visited New Castle County. About 41 percent visited Sussex County and about 12 percent visited Kent County.
Tourists spent $537.5 million in Kent County in 2015, $2.06 billion in New Castle County and $1.79 billion in Sussex County.
Tourism created 42,000 jobs in Delaware, and tourists paid $486 million in taxes and fees in 2015.
While tourists spent the most in New Castle County, the beach was the most popular draw for travelers, followed by dining and shopping. "Everybody in Washington, D.C., already knows about the Delaware beaches," Gov. John C. Carney Jr. said, before donning a Delaware tourism T-shirt at press conference announcing the survey results.
Rental revenue at the beaches rose 1.8 percent, but home-rental spending is not subject to the state's public accommodation tax. If it were, the tax would have generated an addition $88 million in 2015, according to state tourism office figures.
Other popular tourist draws were nightlife, gaming, touring and history.
Carney urged people to discover sites around Delaware: "If you haven't been to the John Dickinson mansion, you need to go. I went to the John Dickinson mansion. It's not quite Monticello, but it's Delaware's Monticello. It really is a fascinating place."
Carney said one of the draws when Delaware was competing with Iowa, Michigan and Indiana for Dow-DuPont was that Delaware is a state with things to do.
The average Delaware visitor in 2015 had a household income of $86,472, slightly higher than the national average.
Their average daily spending was $105, $6 under the national average.
Because Delaware is a drive-to state, 97 percent of visitors came by car and three-quarters lived 200 miles away or closer. Most visitors came from Maryland (31.6 percent), Pennsylvania (15.2 percent) or New Jersey (12.4 percent).