The tourism promotion authorities for Nebraska and Omaha both received awards during a recent convention of the U.S. Travel Association. This recognition provides an occasion to note the many contributions — financially and in terms of community vitality — the tourism sector provides the state and the Omaha area.
The association awarded Nebraska Tourism a 2019 Mercury Award for excellence in creative destination marketing for the state’s travel motto, “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” Visit Omaha, which promotes tourism for the Omaha area, won the award for best print collateral materials, for the promotional socks used in outreach to meeting planners. These award-winning Nebraska successes show the importance of capturing the attention of the public and tourism professionals.
Statewide, spending by tourists gives a $4.9 billion boost to Nebraska’s economy. These visitors enjoy amenities across the breadth of the state. Just a few examples: Nature lovers can appreciate the vistas from Scotts Bluff National Monument, float along the picturesque Niobrara River or hike the trails at Indian Cave State Park. Railroad fans can take in the sights from the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte, while visitors can learn about Nebraska’s past at the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, Morrill Hall in Lincoln or Fort Atkinson State Historical Park.
The Nebraska Passport program, encouraging visits to a choice of 70 sites, commendably promotes communities of all sizes. Communities on this year’s list include Crawford, McCook, Cozad, Broken Bow, Hastings, St. Paul, Neligh and Falls City. Last year, more than 50,000 travelers — from 418 Nebraska communities and 46 states — visited Nebraska locations to collect the Passport stamps.
In all, tourism provides employment to more than 47,000 people statewide and generates tax revenues of $705 million.
Omaha enjoys considerable success on the tourism front through the appeal of amenities such as the Henry Doorly Zoo (Nebraska’s No. 1 tourist attraction) and our community’s demonstrated capability as a host city for events such as the College World Series, Olympic Swim Trials and Equestrian World Cup. Omaha has considerable success in promoting itself as a regional tourism draw.
The Omaha tourism numbers are impressive. The city hosts 12.3 million visitors annually, with $1.2 billion in total spending. That includes $304 million on food and beverages; $302 million on retail purchases; and $242 million on hotels.
Tourism supports 17,280 jobs in Omaha and generates $268 million in tax revenues ($113 million federal, $78.9 million state and $76.1 million local).
Tourism is a positive factor for Nebraska communities of all sizes. The more successfully Nebraska can promote the opportunities for visitors, the better for all parts of the state.