Increase Visitors and Sales with Nebraska Passport Program

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Nebraska Passport program has brought hundreds of visitors to Phelps County, and the Phelps County Development Corporation is encouraging more local attractions and stores to be involved as a way to boost tourism and the local economy.

“By becoming a Passport stop, we are boosting the economic impact for the county,” said Carley Bruning, PCDC’s Director of Business Services. “Travelers will hopefully stop and eat, fuel up, shop, and visit our parks, museums, restaurants and stores while they are here.”

Each year, the Nebraska Tourism Commission selects 70 to 80 attractions across the state to be included in the Nebraska Passport Program. Stops are themed each year (2018 themes included pizza restaurants, coffee shops and Oregon-Trail themed attractions) and may include museums, restaurants, retail stores, coffee shops, wineries and parks.

Anyone can request a passport book for free and then earn passport stamps as they visit attractions between May 1 and September 30 each year. Prizes are awarded to participants who make at least 10 visits. Even those who collect just one stamp can be entered to win grand prize drawings.

The program has been growing each year with 19,880 participants in 2015 and 32,650 participants in 2017. In 2017, 167,153 total stamps were collected, and 469 participants visited all 80 stops. This year’s totals are still being tallied as the deadline for visitors to turn in their passports was early October.

The Nebraska Prairie Museum was the only local stop to be included in the 2018 program. The museum staff reported that more than 800 visitors came to the museum and Phelps County because of the program.

Carley is hoping to work with other local businesses and attractions to encourage more to participate. 

Businesses or attractions that are selected for the program receive free advertising by being listed in the passport guide and promoted throughout the summer.

“Our next hope is that visitors continue to come back and continue to shop online from our local stores,” Carley said. “It’s free advertising for the businesses, our communities and our county.”

There is no charge to be a Nebraska Passport stop. According to the website, any Nebraska destination that offers a unique visitor experience is encouraged to apply, including museums, restaurants, outdoor adventures, retail stores, etc. Potential stops must offer an exceptional, unique visitor experience and be open consistent hours, including at least one weekend day during the Nebraska Passport season.

The time frame to sign up for the Passport program is now through December.

Local destinations may apply to be on the 2019 Nebraska Passport Program by completing an online application at http://nebraskapassport.com/program/application/.

Carley said two local business owners have already contacted her regarding the program, and she is willing to help others with the process if needed. She also encourages local businesses and attractions to add their information to the Nebraska Tourism Commission’s website to be included in the annual printed tourism guide.

“Businesses are responsible for adding their information to the website,” Carley said. “I’m willing to help get pictures and information uploaded, but I need willing business owners to contact me. Let’s make Phelps County a destination. Let’s show Nebraska and the world what we have to offer. Let’s #GROW37!”

To reach Carley at PCDC, email her at Carley@PhelpsCoutyNE.com or call (308) 995-4148.

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