Tourism bright spot in economy

Monday, May 8, 2017

Community leaders have been justifiably concerned about the loss of a couple of major retailers in McCook, but this week draws attention to one of the sectors of the economy where Southwest Nebraska has a real advantage.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has proclaimed May 7-13 Nebraska Travel and Tourism Week, and the celebration will include a visit to McCook by John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism Commission executive director.

He will take part in a town hall meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at one of McCook’s newer restaurants, Citta Deli 110 W. Third in McCook.

At this and a number of other stops, Ricks will hear from a variety of Nebraska destinations and attractions as well as provide an update on current tourism project and goals.

The Gazette is getting in the spirit as well, publishing the third annual Southwest Nebraska Playbook in cooperation with the Red Willow County Visitors Committee, which helps provide editorial input as well as circulating the high-quality 52-page publication far and wide.

Pick up your copy at area travel stops and other locations.

With the area lakes, golf courses, camping spots, festivals, historic and scenic sites, hunting opportunities and other attractions, Southwest Nebraska is ideally positioned to cultivate the growth of tourism.

“Travel supports one in nine American jobs, including 47,400 right here in Nebraska,” Ricks noted.

“This week, we are celebrating what travel means to our community, and we call on everyone — from elected officials to local residents — to join us in saluting the state’s third largest industry.”

According to Ricks’ office, domestic and international travelers to Nebraska spent $4.9 billion in 2015 and generated $705 million to federal, state and local governments, dollars that help fund jobs and public programs such as police, firefighters, teachers, road projects and convention centers.

The 47,400 jobs created by travelers to Nebraska in 2015 represent 5.9 percent of the state’s total private-industry employment.

Without these jobs generated by domestic and international travel, Nebraska’s 2015 unemployment rate of 3.0 percent would have been 7.7 percent of the labor force, according to the release.

For every $1 million spent in Nebraska by domestic and international travelers, 9.7 jobs are created.

In addition to its benefits for the local economy, travel can also have a positive effect on personal well-being for residents and visitors of Nebraska, according to state tourism officials.

Numerous research studies have confirmed the positive health effects of travel and time off, from reducing the risk of heart disease to decreasing depression. Using time off to travel with family is good for everyone, especially our children — kids who travel with their families are more likely to attend college and earn more as adults.

More information is available at VisitNebraska.com.

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