Heritage tourism important resource, unlimited potential

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The controversy over the new jail's proximity to an important McCook landmark, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, shows just how seriously we take history in our community.

And, although the house is a private home and thus generally unavailable for tours, there are many other area attractions that are more open to the public and ripe for development.

They include the nearby Sen. George W. Norris Home, the Historic Fox Theare and the Norris Park Bandshell, plus the High Plains Historical Society Museum and historic downtown McCook "on the bricks."

McCook isn't unusual. According to a new report, $196 million per year is generated by catering to people wishing to reconnect with the past, "Heritage Tourism," at more than 220 museums and historic sites in Nebraska, as well as hundreds of preserved historic properties.

The study, prepared by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, found that more than 3,000 jobs and $16.4 million in state and local tax revenue is collected as a result of heritage tourism.

It was commissioned by the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Department of Economic Development's Division of Travel and Tourism.

"Now we can document the significant economic contributions of heritage tourism to the state," said Kathy McKillip, director of the Nebraska DED's Division of Travel and Tourism. "With tourism season kicking into full swing, we will see this impact.

"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.

The study cited a number of "best practices" from across the state, such as the Nebraska Passport program 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.

You can view the report online at http://nebraskahistory.org/heritage-tourism2.pdf or industry.visitnebraska.org

Check out McCook attractions at http://www.gotomccook.com/

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