The Nebraska Passport program each year incentivizes visitors to sample the state’s variety of stops for recreation, eating, shopping and cultural appreciation. The results are in for this year’s program, and the numbers are encouraging.

More than 50,000 people participated this year — up from 32,000 in 2017 — with passport requests from travelers representing 418 Nebraska communities and 46 states (from up 43 states last year).

In the Nebraska Passport campaign, visitors collect a free Passport stamp at each site and vie for prizes. No purchase is necessary to receive the stamps. This year’s program ran through the end of September. Tourism options through the Nebraska Passport program cover a wide gamut, including shopping and dining options, museums, retail choices and outdoor treks.

How many people visited all 70 Nebraska Passport sites this year? The total is 744, with more perhaps to be processed. The visitors hailed from states including Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri and Oregon.

Nebraska tourism is a nearly $5 billion industry, employing almost 45,000 people. The state set a record for lodging taxes in the fiscal year that ended June 30, the Nebraska Tourism Commission reports. Lodging taxes totaled $5.69 million, an increase of 7 percent over the previous fiscal year. Those tax revenues help finance tourism marketing efforts.

A visitor from Illinois this year left this online message with the Nebraska State Tourism Commission: “Doing the Nebraska Passport was so much fun this summer –- even though it took three trips from Illinois to complete it. Each place that was included was so perfect –- whether it was for the good food, great shopping, beautiful scenery, or Nebraska history. I met so many wonderful folks.”

A Girl Scout leader from Genoa, Nebraska, messaged that this is the second year her Scout group has been collecting stamps: “Each summer we chartered a van and took a few days to travel the state and collect stamps. Not only have we collected stamps but we have created lifelong friendships, memories and experiences that our troop would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. But the best part was having the girls experience different aspects of our great state that some may not have been given the chance to. Thank you!”

A couple from Shelton, Nebraska, wrote: “Throughout the summer we steadily used 2 Saturdays a month to make destinations on our passports. We have eaten some amazing pizza, tried several delicious wines, experienced a lot of history and met some wonderful people along the way. I finished my digital passport just in time, Sept. 28! Thanks for putting this together every year! We tell everybody about it!”

The Nebraska Passport program opens up great opportunities for Nebraskans and out-of-staters alike. It’s a commendable program that showcases our state.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.