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Tourism consultants outline study results
July 27, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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John Kaatz with the Conventions, Sports and Leisure consulting group was at the Gering Civic Center to outline results of a statewide tourism study.

Representatives from the Minneapolis consulting firm Conventions, Sports and Leisure (CSL) and state tourism officials made several stops in Nebraska on July 25 and 26 to present the results of a tourism study.
The study was commissioned by the Nebraska State Tourism Advisory Board to develop a strategic plan for tourism development.
Tourism board president Mike Kesselring of Crawford said they’re pleased with the information gathering process and with the report.
“We’re putting together a plan for state tourism that is based on substance rather than fluff,” Kesselring said. We’re hoping for a good turnout at the public presentations for consideration of the plan.”
The genesis of the plan started last December, when CSL representative John Kaatz met with members of the tourism industry in Bridgeport to discuss the upcoming study. Over the next six months, some 29 focus groups from across the state were asked for input and a plan was developed for Nebraska to increase its tourism efforts.
“We were trying to find a marketing statement; what captures the essence of Nebraska as a tourism destination,” Kaatz told a group at the Gering Civic Center. “Right now I don’t think there’s a common definition of that.”
Kaatz said there are negative misconceptions about Nebraska that are hard to clear up. “Anyone who has driven I-80 gets an inaccurate impression the state is flat and empty.”
He added the tourism board will need to find ways to coordinate efforts with all the county and local tourism groups across the state, as well as other state agencies in order to promote tourism.
Kaatz urged those in the travel industry to develop a coordinated marketing statement that can be used in all tourism promotions, from web sites to brochures to annual reports and travel guides. To accomplish that, he suggested the tourism board hire an outside public relations firm that specializes in travel and tourism to help develop those materials.
Another recommendation from the study is to establish relationships with travel writers who would be interested in writing about Nebraska in their various magazines and newspapers.
“There are a lot of events and festivals going on around the state that many aren’t even aware of,” Kaatz said. “Local tourism groups should work with the state to collect that information and let the public know about it.”
Because the board’s goal is accountability, the study recommended increasing measurement methods for marketing and tracking the results to determine what tourism efforts are producing the best results.
“You need to develop a statement that basically says that in exchange for this amount of money and this amount of people, we delivered these results,” Kaatz said. “You need to get specific to measure economic impact.”
He said the U.S. Travel and Tourism Association measures the economic impact of tourism in all 50 states and many communities around the world. Latest results show that tourism generates about $3.7 billion a year in Nebraska, making it the state’s third largest industry.
Kathy KcKillip, director of the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism, said gathering hard data is important, especially when asking the Legislature for increased funding of tourism. Those numbers can show state senators what’s the return on investment for tourism dollars.
At last December’s initial meeting, one of the concerns was that Nebraska historically spends little on tourism promotion, compared to other states.
“We need to think of tourism as economic development,” Kaatz said. “It impacts agriculture, Game and Parks and roads. Tourism needs to have a voice in all these things going forward.”
After the statewide tour, CSL will integrate feedback from presentations into the study. A final report and executive summary will be completed by the end of August and results posted on the Nebraska tourism website at www.visitnebraska.gov, on the “industry” page.
A formal presentation will also be made to the Legislature on Jan. 17, 2013.
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