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Good Afternoon friend!
No hibernation for tourism
December 12, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
The tourism season might be over and the visitors returned home, but now is still a busy time for those involved in promoting tourism.

“Off season for us simply means preparing for our next season,” said Karla Niedan-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s the time for creating new ads and placing ads in the publications that cater to our target markets.”

The winter months are also busy with planning retreats. Travel professionals from around the state meet to look ahead to the next season. “We talk about trends in tourism and the next year,” she said. “We focus on how to strengthen our group statewide and make it more efficient. That reflects on how we grow tourism in the state.”

A local planning retreat is also planned for January, to include members of tourism venues and the city council. They’ll talk about tourism marketing and opportunities to “think outside the box” with new ideas to promote the local area in 2014.

Another marketing opportunity during winter is travel shows. “This is the opportunity to reach out to people and potential guests,” said Brenda Leisy, director of Scotts Bluff County Tourism. “We use the time to get them information they need while they’re still making travel plans for the upcoming season.”

Leisy said she believes the 2013 season was very successful and they’re moving in the right direction to promote the area. “A lot of people along the Front Range of Colorado don’t even realize we have so much to offer them and it’s only a few hours away,” she said.

Panhandle tourism also got a big boost in July of 2013 when a new travel center opened at the Interstate in Kimball and has been busy since.

“They’ve served about 6,500 visitors since they opened in July,” Niedan-Streeks said. “All 50 states were represented and about 14 foreign countries.”

She added those visitors are important because the Kimball center is getting information to people as they enter Nebraska and serving as a welcoming center.

“Those tourism numbers are also important for the Panhandle because we plan to ask the State Tourism Commission to have the Kimball center staffed as part of the vacation guide program,” Niedan-Streeks said. ‘We hope to have that done by next summer. The Tourism Commission is also impressed with the numbers and sees them as a value.”

The winter months are also a time for tourism professionals to write grants for new marketing projects. Both Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau and Scotts Bluff County Tourism will apply for those state dollars to help expand their marketing campaigns.

Another opportunity comes up in January during the National Western Stock Show in Denver. For the second straight year, Nebraska Tourism will be a major corporate sponsor. Because of the first year’s success, the marketing budget has been increased for this year’s event.

“For years we’ve been asking the Tourism Commission to put more dollars into marketing on the Front Range,” Niedan-Streeks said. “Many of us in western Nebraska will volunteer at the booth during the show. It’s a great opportunity for both the state and those of us in the Panhandle. It’s a short trip for visitors to come up here.”
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