State Tourism Director John Ricks says many states have offered passport programs, with varying degrees of success.
“When I got here, and I heard this one was in its seventh year, I thought, hmm, something’s going on here,” Ricks tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The Nebraska Passport Program features 70 stops throughout Nebraska under 11 categories. The Nebraska Tourism Commission promotes the program as a way “to help travelers discover Nebraska’s hidden gems.”
The program includes trips to museums, parks, restaurants, wineries, retail stores, and more. In fact, Ricks says that is one of the keys to the success of the program in Nebraska; it partners with private, commercial businesses. Those who visit an official site, get a stamp, either in a Nebraska Passport booklet or a digital stamp on the Nebraska Passport App.
The program began the first of May. It ends September 30th. Participants receive prizes when they turn in their stamps. Seven people have already filled out their passports.
The program is going to keep expanding, Ricks says, because it keeps people moving in and around this state.
“It’s basically become a whole heck of a lot of fun for Nebraska residents to learn more about their state,” according to Ricks.
Ricks says the program has been so successful, the tourism commission has been able to shift some marketing money from in-state advertising to out-of-state. The commission printed 42,000 passport booklets this year and distributed 25,000 to those who expressed an interest in the program. It has had to go back to the printer for more books.
It also contributes to the state economy. According to Ricks, for every dollar invested in the program, it returns $2.20 in state and local tax receipts as well as $26.60 in travel spending at Nebraska businesses.
To learn more about the Nebraska Passport Program, click here for the website.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]