Media Tours Can Open Up Local Economic Opportunities


For the sixth time, the Nebraska Tourism Commission is bringing travel writers from all over the country to get a first-hand look at what the state can offer a visitor.

Since 2012 when the commission held their first tour, they say over 200 articles and stories have exposed 115 million potential visitors to some of Nebraska's tourism opportunities.

On Wednesday, one group rose before the sun to watch prairie chickens dance near Burwell, then made their way to Dannebrog for lunch and a little entertainment at the Danish Bakery.

Freelance travel and wildlife writer Eileen Mattei says it's flavor that can spice up an article she'll likely write about visiting Nebraska's ecotourism draws.

"You try and interest editors in the story saying, this is a place people will love once they get there, they're going to have a good time. I can write you a story that will make people want to go there," says Mattei.

The bakery and Pawnee Arts Center were just two stops on the central Nebraska media tour that visited Burwell, Alma, York, and many places in between.

"They're always looking for a hook, which might be the Sandhill cranes, but then they want to know about other things you can do when you're in the area," says tour facilitator George Percy, senior vice president with Geiger & Associates – a Florida-based firm that specializes in media tours.

AAA's Journeys magazine editor Kate Avitabile, who is based out of Hartford, Conn., says the tour is eye-opening for someone like her who's never been in Nebraska beyond Omaha.

"Where I live especially people think of, oh you know, it's just kind of cattle country, not that it really is a recognizable place on the map," she says.

Tourism is Nebraska's third largest industry, and organizers say growing it helps the state, as well as each place they expose to a national or global audience – like Dannebrog.

"Here are two small businesses in a small community that conceivably can benefit from some national and major regional coverage," says Percy.

Writers say being able to personalize the potential experience a visitor can have will make them much more likely to pack their bags.

"Either bringing back memories or making memories is what travel is about a lot," says Mattei.

Local visitor bureaus help customize and guide the tour around each area.