Nebraska Passport leads to great adventures
The Nebraska Passport is back and better than ever, featuring new stops, fun tours and exciting prizes.
This year’s expanded program includes 80 attractions on 10 themed tours: culinary, culture, family fun, festivals, golf, GROW Nebraska, parks, unique accommodations, water adventure and wineries. No matter what travelers enjoy doing on their vacations, they’ll find something tempting.
In addition to exploring the state, travelers can earn prizes by getting their souvenir passport stamped at the designated stops before Sept. 30. Participants can earn tour-themed T-shirts, a $25 GROW Nebraska gift card and a digital camera. There will also be a grand-prize drawing for an iPad at the end of the program.
The Passport program began in 2010 as a way to encourage travelers to experience the attractions along the state’s nine scenic and historic routes. More than 270 travelers (families in tow) submitted stamps for prizes, and 120 participants visited all 27 stops, which involved traveling nearly 1,900 miles.
Traveler feedback was incredibly positive. Participants said they traveled to places they wouldn’t have otherwise visited, and many said they used the program to plan their summer vacations.
The success of the initial program led to its continuation and expansion. In 2011 the Nebraska Passport featured 33 attractions across the entire state, not just on the byways.
The program also received overwhelming support from the tourism industry. According to a follow-up survey, the program dramatically increased visitor traffic to participating attractions. “That is the real benefit of the Nebraska Passport to the state—increased interest, traffic and tourism,” said Kathy McKillip, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Travel and Tourism Division. And there are additional economic benefits, as each participant travels across the state buying fuel, eating meals, spending nights and paying entrance fees along the way.
This year, more than 170 attractions and businesses applied to be part of the program. “Expanding to 80 stops for 2012 and organizing niche tours gives travelers more options,” McKillip said.
“We want people to really explore the sites, not just collect stamps for prizes,” McKillip said. “By creating these special interest tours, we’re presenting travelers with a whole palette of choices. People can select sites that match their interests and really tailor their travels to explore some of the hidden gems in our state.”
Susan Freshman, manager of Arbor Day Farm’s Tree Adventure in Nebraska City, said she was thrilled with the opportunity to participate again this year. “We reached new audiences from far across the state and across borders,” Freshman said. “Being a part of a larger group with advertising support and incentives afforded us the opportunity to reach a new, diverse group of people. Some participants had not heard of us and the Passport not only showcased our property, but we got the chance to tell visitors what Nebraska City and our surrounding area have to offer.”
That’s the goal of the program. “We want the participating stops to promote the other opportunities in their region,” McKillip said. “We hope people will take time to explore other attractions while they are participating in the Nebraska Passport.”
Greg Isaacs of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, is traveling to Nebraska this summer to visit a friend and plans to use the Nebraska Passport as his guidebook. “While my friend is from Nebraska, she hasn’t seen everything the state has to offer,” Isaacs said. “Having a passport is going to be a fantastic tool in my bag of tricks while exploring your fine state. I’ve traveled all over the world, and doing the great American road trip is probably going to be the biggest highlight of my year.”