A staggering $196 million per year is generated each year by heritage tourism in the state, according to a new report, “Heritage Tourism in Nebraska.” Researchers studied the economic impact of visitors to historic sites and museums in 2011, and found it to be a large and growing component of Nebraska’s tourism industry.
The study found that more than 3,000 jobs in the state are supported by heritage tourism, and $16.4 million in state and local tax revenue is collected annually. More than 220 museums and historic sites in Nebraska as well as hundreds of preserved historic properties provide a rich historic context to the heritage traveler. Heritage tourism complements other types of travel destinations and activities.
“Now we can document the significant economic contributions of heritage tourism to the state,” said Kathy McKillip, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s (DED) Division of Travel and Tourism. “With tourism season kicking into full swing we will see this impact.”
As indicated by the report, heritage tourism generates direct income, spending in communities, state and local taxes, gross state product and in-state wealth.
The report, prepared by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was commissioned by two state agencies: Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS) and the DED’s Division of Travel and Tourism. It combines information from on-site data collection and meetings with museums, heritage attractions and organizations across the state.
As the first comprehensive analysis of heritage tourism activity in the state, the report also includes recommendations for sustaining and increasing Nebraska’s heritage tourism industry, such as building capacity, collaboration and interactivity. With the large number of historic sites and museums, it is also critical to preserve and enhance these existing tourism assets and capitalize on them.
A number of “best practices” were identified from across the state. Current efforts, such as the Nebraska Passport program and the VisitNebraska.gov website were cited as having great potential for promotion of historic places. Recommendations included engaging communities as ambassadors of their local history and culture, better use of technology to promote locales and regions, and more collaboration by museums and historic sites.
“Heritage tourism affects not only travelers but Nebraskans in their home communities,” said Bob Puschendorf, NSHS associate director and deputy preservation officer for the state.
Funding for the report came from Nebraska DED through federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program and a grant to the NSHS from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service.