LINCOLN, Neb. — A program that encourages people to explore Nebraska's hidden gems is on track to surpass the participation from its 2017 season.
This year’s Nebraska Passport program runs from May 1-September 30 and features 70 destinations in 11 categories: Animals, Arts, Back in Time, Coffee, Oregon Trail, Outdoors, Pizza, Restaurants, Shopping, Sweet Treats, and Wine & Beer.
Over 47,500 Passport booklets have already been distributed to travelers in 45 states and 415 Nebraska communities. Additionally, over 37,000 digital stamps have already been given out through the Nebraska Passport app. Participation numbers for 2018 are expected to exceed 2017’s numbers.
“Passport travelers are passionate advocates of this program. Once they share stories about their experiences at the Passport stops, their friends and family want to join in. It’s amazing how much it has grown,” said Passport program coordinator, Erin Wirth. “We’re excited to see this year's numbers continue to increase over the next three months. This program has a great impact on the Nebraska tourism industry as a whole.”
The following are currently the most visited Passport ‘stops’ (according to digital stamp counts):
In just over two months, 25 travelers have already visited all 70 stops. These ‘Passport Champions’ hail from eastern, western and central Nebraska. Stories from Passport travelers show they are having fun discovering new places, supporting Nebraska businesses, and spending time with their friends and family.
“Spent the morning with friends visiting Passport places. We had a blast. I have lived in eastern Nebraska all my life and had no idea some of these places existed. We loved meeting all the very nice business owners,” said Passport participant Alberta Gray from Omaha.
Not only does the Nebraska Passport program benefit travelers through helping them create life-long memories, the program greatly benefits the 70 chosen Passport stops through increased traffic, sales and awareness.
Amanda Rekasis, owner of the Sugar Bee in Hickman, said, “We've been very busy and excited about the number of Passport visitors we’ve had. They have all been so wonderful and it’s been fun hearing their stories about their other Passport travels. We are so grateful for this program and have recommended it to other businesses in town.”
According to a study done by Nebraska Tourism and Dean Runyan Associates, in 2017 the Nebraska Passport program generated nearly $6 million in travel spending throughout the state and $469,500 in state and local tax revenue.
Passport booklets are available at all 70 participating stops. The Passport app can be download for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play -- simply search for “NE Passport 2018.”
To learn more about this year’s prizes and to read travelers’ stories, visit NebraskaPassport.com.