Lincoln - Sen. Ken Schilz and state officials celebrated National Travel and Tourism Week by kicking off programs that promote travel opportunities across the state.
National Travel and Tourism Week is celebrated during the first full week of May. It's the annual salute to travel in America and its value to the U.S. economy.
In 2012, travelers spurred $2 trillion in spending, resulting in $129 billion in tax revenues. This spending supports close to 14.6 million American jobs.
In Nebraska, direct travel spending hit over $3.1 billion in 2012, generated $15,878,674 in lodging tax revenue and supported 45,600 jobs, making tourism is one of the state's top three industries, alongside agriculture and manufacturing.
National Travel and Tourism Week is an opportunity to highlight the benefits of traveling in our own state. Travelers dine out, sleep at hotels, attend events, tour attractions and buy souvenirs, among other things, all of which support small businesses and reduce the tax burden on local communities.
Today, the Nebraska Tourism Commission and the Game and Parks Commission are launching the 2013 Nebraska Passport program and the Great Park Pursuit.
"National Tourism Week is a great opportunity to kick off the summer season," said Jim Douglas, director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. "In partnership with the Nebraska Tourism Commission we are happy to say that the state park system provides some of the best tourist attractions in the state, where people come together and memories are made."
The official state Passport program encourages travelers to explore Nebraska, collect stamps from participating attractions and then redeem them for prizes. The 2013 Passport features 80 attractions on 10 themed tours.
"The 2013 Passport promotes opportunities for summer travel across the state," said Tourism Executive Director Kathy McKillip. "We've created some new partnerships and innovations to make this year's Passport even better. People love this program, and last year more than 19,000 households participated. We expect to see that number increase this summer as people travel and stimulate the state's economy."
A partnership with the Nebraska Hotel & Motel Association will provide lodging discounts to Passport participants who mention the program when making a reservation at a NHMA member's establishment and who show their passport when checking in. A list of hotels can be found at NebraskaHMA.com.
"The Nebraska Hotel & Motel Association is proud to be cooperating with the Nebraska Tourism Commission and the travel industry in the 2013 Passport program," said Bob Anderson, executive director of the association. "Hotels and motels are the part of the industry that provides lodging along with food, beverages and at times other entertainment and family fun. Many lodging facilities have added family fun ventures to properties including swimming, recreation centers and water parks to enhance the travel experience in Nebraska."
Passports are available at participating stops. A list of stops and more information can be found at NebraskaPassport.com.