Click here to read the Heritage Tourism in Nebraska report
Click here to read the Heritage Tourism in Nebraska 2011 study
LINCOLN — History's dusty image has a new golden glow.
Heritage tourism — the experience of visiting museums and historic sites — generates more than $196 million a year in Nebraska, according to a report released Wednesday.
Researchers studied the economic impact of visitors to historic sites and museums in 2011 and found it to be a large and growing component of the state's tourism industry.
The study found that more than 3,000 Nebraska jobs are supported by heritage tourism and that $16.4 million in state and local tax revenues are collected from it annually.
From Arbor Lodge in the southeast to Fort Robinson in the northwest, more than 220 museums and historic sites, nearly 500 historical markers and hundreds of preserved historic properties across the state provide a rich historic context for travelers, said Bob Puschendorf, associate director of the Nebraska State Historical Society and the state's deputy preservation officer.
“We always lament that we don't have mountains or oceans, but we've got a lot of good history,” he said.
Heritage tourism generates direct income, spending in communities, state and local taxes, gross state product and in-state wealth, Puschendorf said.
Heritage travelers take 50 percent longer trips than other travelers, travel longer distances in larger groups, spend nearly 2˝ times more than other travelers per overnight stay and often earn higher incomes, according to the Heritage Tourism in Nebraska report.
Such tourism also complements other types of travel destinations and activities, including wineries and vineyards, the spring sandhill crane migration and performing arts and arboretums, Puschendorf said.
Tourism in general is a significant slice of Nebraska's economy, ranking third in revenue generated from outside the state. Nebraska historic sites and museums attract about 3 million visitors annually, about 39 percent of them from outside the state.
“Now we can document the significant economic contributions of heritage tourism to the state,” said Kathy McKillip, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development's Division of Travel and Tourism. “We will see this impact.”
The report is the state's first comprehensive analysis of heritage tourism activity. Puschendorf said it is critical to preserve and enhance Nebraska's many historic sites and museums to capitalize on them.
The report highlights several heritage tourism programs as having great potential for promoting historic places. Among them were the Nebraska Passport program and the Visit Nebraska.gov website.
The report was prepared by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was commissioned by the state historical society and the Travel and Tourism Division.
Funding for the report came from State Economic Development Department through federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program and a grant to the historical society from the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service.
Recommendations included engaging communities as ambassadors of local history and culture, harnessing technology to promote locales and encouraging greater collaboration among museums and historic sites.
Puschendorf said local and state investments in heritage tourism help build pride and make Nebraska a better place to live, locate a business and visit.
“One of the neat economic-impact findings is that not only can a museum or historic site boost a local economy, but it bolsters the facilities themselves through greater admissions,” Puschendorf said.
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