A natural phenomenon brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to Nebraska last year.
How does the Nebraska Tourism Commission capitalize on it?
Just how do you top 2017?
“I assume you’re talking about the ‘e’ word, right?” State Tourism Director John Ricks asks Nebraska Radio Network at the outset of our telephone interview with him.
Ricks says the total solar eclipse last August brought a major influx of tourists to Nebraska.
“Most of them came specifically for the eclipse itself,” according to Ricks.
Ricks says the preparation and planning many Nebraska communities took, even very small communities, impressed him. Some planned for two years on how best to bring visitors to their communities, not just for the Monday, August 21st, event, but for a weekend of activities.
The total solar eclipse gave Nebraska a golden opportunity to pierce the perception too many have of all the Great Plains states; that they are flat with nothing to offer. Ricks calls it “brand apathy.” Tourists don’t have negative perceptions of the Midwest; they just are indifferent.
Visitors last August caught a glimpse not just of a rare event, but a glimpse of Nebraska.
Ricks says research compiled by the state tourism commission indicates many of those who came for the eclipse plan to return in the near future, because their visit made an impression.
“They discovered that Nebraska is a whole lot more fun, the place is a whole lot more friendly, than the perceptions that are out there,” Ricks says.
Ricks says the tourism commission is marketing specifically to those visitors, but also shifting more of its marketing budget to neighboring states, inviting them to visit. And Ricks adds that while the commission is working this year to build on the momentum of last year, it is working hard to plan a brand new tourism campaign for 2019.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]