Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Six years ago we began a new event designed to help a growing segment of small business owners and entrepreneurs succeed in our state. Tourism is a leading industry in Nebraska and holds significant potential for additional growth, particularly in the sector of the tour and travel industry known as agri- and eco-tourism.
Our rich array of natural resources and rural landscapes mean Nebraska has much to offer visitors interested in planning an outdoor getaway. The 2011 Governor's Agri- and Eco-Tourism Workshop was held recently to provide information and resources for those interested in developing or expanding a tourism venture in our state.
There are excellent opportunities to expand in the tour and travel industry. Industry studies cite an interest among families in planning getaways to smaller, rural communities. A comprehensive study of Nebraska's business climate cited tourism and hospitality as one of a dozen industries positioned for growth, with virtually every county in Nebraska having the potential for additional development.
For most Nebraska counties, agri-tourism and eco-tourism offer opportunities to attract more visitors. Many of our rural areas are uniquely positioned to benefit from the interest of travelers and outdoor enthusiasts interested in a unique tour or experience.
Nebraska offers a range of landscapes from pine-covered bluffs in the northwest to the rolling Sandhills and prairie grasslands of central Nebraska. There are unique and picturesque rock formations in western Nebraska, scenic river communities along the Missouri River and acres of wide open range and pastureland in between. Our location along the central flyway provides wildlife watchers the opportunity to experience the annual migration of 500,000 Sandhill cranes as they stop along a 40 mile stretch of the Platte River.
Our state features historic trails created by pioneers and settlers heading west and rail lines that played a vital role in building our nation. A number of communities are home to historic markers and wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail.
Nebraska is home to nearly 24,000 miles of rivers and streams with scenic waterways offering opportunities for canoeing, tubing, kayaking, tanking and airboat tours. Together with hunting, fishing, birding, camping, hiking, and biking, opportunities for outdoor recreation are some of the fastest growing segments of our tourism industry.
Agri-tourism opportunities range from the dozens of farms that allow visitors to pick their own produce, more than 50 guest ranches where visitors can drive cattle and mend fences, and walk through the more than 75 farmers' markets held across the state from spring through the fall.
The fall harvest season attracts visitors interested in touring pumpkin patches, apple orchards, vineyards, wineries and breweries. Twenty years ago there were no commercial wineries or vineyards in Nebraska. Today there are 25 operations growing more than 30 varieties of grapes.
Nebraska's tourism industry continues to grow and thrive. The Agri- and Eco-Tourism Workshop is one way we work with small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to tap into the growing market of travelers interested in outdoor adventures.