Come to Nebraska and golf.
That will be one promotional effort this summer as the state tries to build on a growing tourism industry, an industry that generates more than $4 billion a year and employees as many as 45,600 Nebraskans.
Gov. Dave Heineman promoted tourism during a conference call with reporters this morning, a preview to Seek Nebraska Week May 5th through the 12th, which will highly vacation and travel options in the state.
The 2012 Nebraska Passport encourages Nebraskans to visit all parts of their state, collecting stamps from 80 participating locations. Visitors can collect prizes for their efforts. For collecting 25 stamps, a visitor will receive a $25 GROW Nebraska gift card. For visiting half of the locations, a visitor will receive a Canon Powershot digital camera, just for sending in a tear-out page from the passport. A grand-prize drawing for an Apple iPad will be held in October.
Heineman says the state will promote certain themes to attract tourists this year, but will emphasize economical, family trips.
“Travelers will find that their lodging, dining and entertainment dollars go further in Nebraska,” according to Heineman. “We encourage Nebraskans and those in surrounding areas to get out and explore Nebraska this year.”
The Passport program organizes the 80 stops into 10 special interest tours: culinary, culture, family fun, festivals, golf, GROW Nebraska, parks, unique accommodations, water adventure and wineries.
State officials say the passport promotion highlights destinations including: 51st Annual Wilber Czech Fest, The Prairie Club golf course in Valentine, Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Café in McCook, Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretive Center in Ogallala, High Plains Homestead in Crawford, Pawnee Plunge Water Park in Columbus and Mac’s Creek Winery & Vineyards in Lexington.
Director Kathy McKillip with the Division of Travel and Tourism says surveys show Nebraskans need to take more pride in what their state has to offer.
“And we’re finding that we need to do better as Nebraskans in believing in ourselves and what our amenities and resources are and getting out and supporting those.” McKillip stated.
Even as Heineman promotes Nebraska tourism, he concedes the state needs to focus its efforts to promote tourism spots. Heineman says the state is working with a consultant on a strategic plan to promote tourism.
“So, we need to think about what do we have to offer here? How we want to promote it. I think we have a more diverse program or series of activities that we can promote in the state, but again we need to get focused what are the three or four that we’re really going to try to make a difference with,” Heineman stated.
State officials say travel expenditures in Nebraska have grown by more than $2 billion since 1990.
AUDIO: Gov. Heineman discusses tourism during conference call with reporters [4:35]