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Tourism professionals from across state visit Grand Island for annual conference

Nebraska Tourism Conference welcomes professionals from across state to Grand Island
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 9:26 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Nebraska Tourism Conference started up in Grand Island Tuesday, bringing out tourism professionals from across the state.

Brad Mellema, director of Grand Island Tourism, says they are welcoming people out to central Nebraska for the conference for the first time in 15 years.

“This really is nice to spotlight our community to these professionals across the state so, we celebrate state tourism, but we also, of course, have it in Grand Island and so, we’re glad to do that,” he said.

The past two years, the in-person conference had been called off.

John Ricks, executive director for Nebraska Tourism Commission, was at the conference Wednesday. He said, when the pandemic took a toll on traveling, it also brought down one of the forms of funding for Nebraska tourism by 40%.

“There have been — I don’t think anything like COVID ever before, that significant — but there have been other things that the tourism industry has rebounded really quickly, and that’s what’s happening right now,” Ricks said.

In the past six months, Ricks says they’ve noticed an increase in the amount of overnight stays in Nebraska. These numbers on the rise helped to bring a recovery to the decrease they had seen in tourism before.

“June of this year was the largest month for our lodging tax collection ever,” he noted. “So, we’re excited about that and now, where we go from here, we’ll just see. I mean, we’re gearing up, part of this is talking where our industry is going and to see where we’ll go next spring.”

Ricks added, one of the biggest tourist attractions they focused on was the crane migrations in Central Nebraska.

For the remainder of the tourism conference in Grand Island, Mellema said they were looking forward to the personal connections with one another.

“This is really one of our first chances to get together after last year’s pandemic, and so everybody’s pretty anxious and ready to get to that personal contact that we’ve kind of been missing for the last couple of years,” Mellema said.

To start off the conference, the tourist professionals took bus rides to places around central Nebraska and were able to get a look at some of the businesses in the area.

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