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2013: A very good tourism year
January 09, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
More people visiting the area and increased popularity of existing events are two of the factors that led to 2013 being a very good year for tourism in the community.

“We saw a lot of improvements for the Monument Marathon this past year,” said Brenda Leisy, director of Scotts Bluff County Tourism. “We were recognized on the state level for hosting the event.”

Leisy said the marathon continues to draw both runners and tourists to the area. Also, while it isn’t directly involved with her office, the merger of the Farm And Ranch Museum and the North Platte Valley Museum set the foundation for a strong tourism draw in the future.

Leisy serves as chair of the marketing committee for the new Legacy of the Plains Museum, which has already developed a logo and a website and will continue publicizing the museum to a larger audience.

Another tourism draw opened during 2013 with the High Point Visitor Center in Kimball. Leisy said Scotts Bluff County Tourism helps fund that operation because it helps encourage travelers to get off the Interstate and investigate the Panhandle.

“Our summer activities like Oregon Trail Days have always been strong draws for us,” Leisy said. “We’re now seeing more fall activities with the Harvest Festival, the Fiber Arts Fair and the Monument Marathon. And we’re planning on adding some more fall activities like the balloon races.”

Local tourism also focused on the Colorado’s Front Range in 2013. Nebraska State Tourism sponsored the Western Nebraska Tourism Coalition to attend the Western Stock Show in Denver during January.

“We’re trying to get away from a tourism season that only runs May through the first of September,” Leisy said. “We want to start kicking off things in February and running through December. We only want one quiet month.”

For Gering in particular, the return of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) rally was a plus for the city. “One of our goals is to bring back return business,” said Karla Niedan-Streeks, director of the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The HOG rally was here in 2010 and the people who came were impressed that everything was here together in Gering where it’s centrally located. They were also impressed with how welcoming the community was.”

Niedan-Streeks said the HOG rally emphasized the importance of conference and meeting business, which brings dollars into the community and spreads them around.

Statistics show that convention bookings at the Gering Civic Center in 2013 were up about 10 percent over the previous year. Convention services also increased by 37 percent. And the local tourism group worked with the Nebraska Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus to increase awareness in eastern Nebraska.

The community also got some national exposure in June 2013 when 22 travel writers from across the country visited the area for two days. Stories about their experiences are already showing up in numerous publications.

“We had people from the New York Post and the Chicago Tribune,” Niedan-Streeks said. “They cover travel and special niche market publications. These writers are well-respected in their fields. Word of mouth advertising from a trusted writer is the best you can get.”

She said travel writer groups will also be scheduled in 2014 and 2015.
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