Nebraska's small-business owners, outfitters and landowners gather in Grand Island this week to learn how to better tap into the growing agritourism and ecotourism markets.
The Nebraska Tourism Commission's annual Agri/ Eco-Tourism Workshop is Monday through Wednesday. Activities will be at the Raising Nebraska Building on the State Fairgrounds at Fonner Park and at the Grand Theatre. About 130 people are expected.
Workshop objectives include helping attendees learn how to get the most out of their land, utilize fresh marketing ideas, discover greater financial opportunities and network with potential partners, said Kathy McKillip, the tourism commission's executive director.
"Visitors to our state adore experiencing the land firsthand,'' she said. "This is a great chance for people to learn skills to successfully connect the land to the visitor, providing a down-to-earth Nebraska experience."
Vendors showcase homemade and homegrown products, including beers, wines and other beverages and food. New this year are Nebraska-made items such as soaps, lavender products and fiber products.
Agritourism alone is estimated to be at least a $100 million industry in Nebraska, tourism officials say.
Agritourism includes visits to a working farm, ranch, winery or any agricultural operation or active heritage site for enjoyment, outdoor recreation, activities, education, shopping, dining or lodging. It includes things such as corn mazes, hunting or fishing on farm property, staying overnight in a rural bed-and breakfast, you-pick operations, pumpkin patches, orchards, wineries, dude ranches, assisting with farm and ranch activities and farm-to-fork events.
Ecotourism includes bird and wildlife-watching, stargazing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tanking, bicycling, hiking and horseback riding.
Since Nebraska is about 95 percent privately owned, many of these activities take place on farms and ranches, said Karen Kollars, the commission's agritourism consultant. Many of Nebraska's most-visited attractions are ecotourism or agritourism destinations.
A 1 p.m. Wednesday meeting of the tourism commission at the Grand Theatre wraps up the three days of activities.
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