State tourism week kicks off

Gov. Dave Heineman today kicked off ‘See Nebraska Week,' by announcing the 2011 Nebraska Passport program, which promotes opportunities for summer travel across the state.

The Governor signed a proclamation declaring May 7 to 15 as See Nebraska Week, which encourages Nebraskans and other visitors to learn more about vacation and travel options in Nebraska.

“This is a good time to make plans to explore Nebraska, and the passport program is a great way to get started by highlighting travel opportunities,” Gov. Heineman said. “Travelers will find that their lodging, dining and entertainment dollars go further in Nebraska. We encourage Nebraskans and those in surrounding states to get out and explore Nebraska this year.”

The tourism and travel industry has an important economic impact on the state. It continues to be the third largest revenue producer from outside the state, behind agriculture and manufacturing, and generates more than $3 billion a year. Total travel expenditures in Nebraska have increased by more than $2.4 billion from 1990 to 2010. In 2009, tourism accounted for more than 45,000 jobs statewide.

A one-percent lodging tax provides funding for the Division of Travel and Tourism at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which promotes statewide attractions and attracts visitors to Nebraska. Lodging tax revenue reached a new high in 2010 totaling more than $3.8 million.

The 2011 Nebraska Passport program highlights destinations across the state. Travelers are encouraged to pick up a souvenir passport at one of 33 participating locations and collect stamps from each location visited to win prizes. This year's passport promotion builds on the 27 stops featured in last year's Nebraska Byways Passport. Visitors returning a passport with 11 stamps receive a passport t-shirt; a $25 GROW Nebraska gift card for those with 22 stamps; and a Bushnell binocular digital camera for completing the tour. A grand-prize drawing for an Apple iPad will be held this fall. More information is available online at

The passport promotion highlights destinations including: the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, the Wildcat Hills Nature Center in Gering, Ponca State Park, the Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretive Center in Ogallala, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Valentine, Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, and more than two dozen others.

The division has also launched a promotion encouraging golfers in neighboring states to “Get Driving” to Nebraska for a golf getaway. The campaign will raise awareness of the quality, variety and value of golf experiences that make Nebraska an attractive destination for golfers. There are nearly 200 public golf courses and other private courses across Nebraska.

Other vacation options include historic attractions, opportunities to take in scenic views along scenic byways, waterways and recreational trails, tours of the state's 25 wineries, local festivals and other special events, and farms and ranches offering hunting and other sporting opportunities. Nebraska's eight state parks and 65 state recreation areas provide additional opportunities for outdoor activities.

Nebraska remains one of the most cost-effective destinations in the nation for travelers.

Interactive maps, road trip ideas, trip planners and more are available online at