November 21, 2018 by

Omaha has a long history of welcoming visitors during the holidays. In the 1930s Omaha’s Union station was considered one of the busiest train stations in the nation, welcoming more than 10,000 travelers a day. During that time, the station started a tradition of raising a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree in the middle of its main waiting room to welcome travelers during the holiday season. The Durham Museum continues the holiday tradition today, displaying the region’s largest indoor Christmas tree each year. Families have been known to drive for hours to take part in the museum’s annual tree lighting ceremony, and it is one of the many highlights that attracts motorcoach groups to the city during the holidays. 

Last year, during a three-day period, the city welcomed 22 motorcoach groups from states such as Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas to experience Omaha during the holidays. These bus groups were here to feast on ethnic Christmas dinners, enjoy music and dancing at places like the Greek Orthodox Church and the German-American Society, and travel to the Renaissance era for a Madrigal Christmas Feast (kings and jesters included). Each group enjoyed a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse and a holiday concert with Omaha’s symphony. Also on their itinerary was a stroll through Lauritzen Gardens, a botanical wonderland that displays more than 5,000 poinsettias through the holiday season.   

While here, these bus groups stayed in hotels, ate in restaurants, supported the arts, and shopped in Omaha stores. During that single three-day period last year, those 22 motorcoach groups spent more than $250,000 in the community.

As the CVB looks ahead, bus groups like these will be driving in even more dollars. In January 2020, Omaha is hosting the American Bus Association (ABA) Annual Meeting and Marketplace. This one meeting will bring in more than 3,400 tour operators, travel industry suppliers, and exhibitors, who will spend more than $7 million while they are here.

Holding the ABA meeting in Omaha gives Omahans the opportunity to convince these tour operators to plan future bus tours to Omaha. Other states that have hosted the ABA Annual Meeting have booked more than $100 million worth of additional business during the event and immediately afterward.

So, the next time you notice a motorcoach bus full of visitors, think of it as a holiday gift for our
entire community.


This column was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau