Tourism plans soar with new partnerships, tourist guides this summer | politics

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Scotts Bluff County Tourism Director Branda Leisy holds up a pocket guide to Dawes County during a county board meeting. Her department plans to create similar guides for marketing the county’s trails, one of several tourism plans for the area.


CHRISTOPHER BORRO/Star Herald


The summer tourism season is fast approaching and local tourist offices are preparing for an influx of visitors to the region.

Scotts Bluff County Tourism Director Brenda Leisy said there will be a big focus this year on sports tourism to bring more tournaments to the county.

As part of this effort, the county and city joined Gering Sports Nebraska, a statewide sports tourism initiative.

“As a member of Sports Nebraska, we’re ready to host events,” said Leisy.

The area will be added to the Sports Nebraska Guide, and sports planners can view facility and community details here to see if a location would be a good fit for their activities. All sports would be represented.

Leisy said local tourism officials will also unveil a new sports-centric logo during a presentation for National Travel and Tourism Week in early May. Officials will also announce the establishment of a sports tourism advisory board. Karla Niedan-Streeks, Gering’s tourism director, said that sports tourism in the region has made such progress recently that it is important to focus more on promoting it.

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Officials will take steps to improve other local tourism aspects as well. One goal of Leisy and Niedan-Streeks is to improve local maps for visitors. They will create a pocket guide to the county’s trails, which Leisy said has been very successful in Dawes County.

“They can throw it in their backpack and have access to any trail they can hike, bike or horseback ride in the county,” Leisy said.

The books also include each location’s difficulty level and brief descriptions of the area’s history.

Niedan-Streeks said the maps were a collaborative effort and had been conceived over several years.

“We’ve definitely needed the ability to put these trail maps in the hands of consumers for quite some time,” she said.

Tourism officials plan to convert their exciting tri-fold maps into pocket booklets to be printed in time for National Travel and Tourism Week. Additionally, they plan to revamp their pad maps, which show the streets of Scottsbluff and Gering.

“The pad card continues to be one of the most popular products we give out to visitors throughout the summer,” said Leisy. “…It will just be very easy for our guests to use.”

The offices try to print a new block map every two years. Leisy said the county’s tourism office will hire several interns to help with sports tourism and general marketing.

It is important that all changes and plans are finalized by May. In late spring and early summer, most tourists visit the area. When they do, they bring in extra-county revenue that can be a boon to businesses across the region. In 2021, 180,000 people visited Scotts Bluff National Monument alone, Leisy said. In general, the district can bring in an additional $25,000 to $30,000 during months of major events.

For example, the Old West Balloon Fest is one of the county’s most visited attractions. Last year, the county’s hotel occupancy rate was 96% during this period. Since 2015, the Tourism Bureau has collected $314,000 in lodging taxes in the month it’s held. Retail stores, attractions, and restaurants are also reporting large increases in sales, according to Leisy.

Tourism is the second largest industry in western Nebraska. Niedan-Streeks said the industry’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has created new opportunities to market the region as an ideal tourist destination. When visitors come to the area, their funds provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.

“The economic impact is so much stronger in our communities,” she said.

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