Nebraska Tourism Director John Ricks was in the Panhandle yesterday to help celebrate National Tourism Week by taking part to the Salute to Tourism Luncheon in Gering.
Ricks told the gathering that officials are starting to see a “monumental change” in the tourism industry that’s boding well for Nebraska’s travel destinations – and it’s a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said one tourism industry economics expert estimates that some $4-trillion dollars in leisure spending didn’t happen during the pandemic with those people anxious to travel again.
One of the shifts he’s seeing is that over-the-road travel instead of flying seems to be making a comeback with people embracing the idea of sitting and talking to each other while finding new places and having fun.
He said surveys show that 60% of those who did drive for a vacation during the pandemic reported the experience reminded them of how much fun road trips can be. As a result, he’s predicting a “resurgence of the Great American Road Trip.”
Ricks is also encouraged by the fact that lodging tax receipts increased in March for the first time in 10 months while online searches and VisitNebraska contacts are well above what they were in 2019, a very strong tourism year in the state.