August 26, 2016 by

With the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in the city this past summer, out-of-town visitors were front and center, but do you know how many out-of-towners visit Omaha during a typical year?

Take a guess:

A    250,000

B    1.2 million

C    750,000

D   11.9 million

If you guessed B or C, you are like most people we ask, but the answer is D. According to research conducted by Tourism Economics—an Oxford Economics Company, 11.9 million visitors come to Omaha every year. We define a visitor as someone who travels to Omaha from more than 50 miles away. About 60 percent of those are day visitors, folks who travel in from places like Shenandoah, Iowa, to go shopping, out to eat, to see their doctor, or to take in a performance and then return home. The other 40 percent are overnight visitors—people who come to visit relatives, families who want to enjoy a long weekend getaway, fans who travel to Omaha for sporting events or concerts, convention delegates, and business travelers. While we at the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB) don’t have much control over where your relatives live, or with whom you do business, we do have an impact on leisure travelers and convention delegates.

Our convention sales team focuses on bringing convention business here. They travel the country promoting Omaha to groups such as the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives, which met in Omaha in July. The organization is made up of 200 associations that also hold meetings throughout the year, so this one meeting could garner even more convention business in the future for the city. Last year alone, the convention sales team was responsible for 291 meetings here in Omaha, and those meetings brought in more than $125 million to our local economy. 

Our marketing team focuses on building Omaha’s reputation as a great leisure destination, a place where families, couples, and friends can enjoy a fun getaway. In addition to purchasing national advertising to brand Omaha as a visitor destination, the marketing team also targets the drive market, a 250-mile radius around Omaha. A 10-month-long regional advertising campaign in Kansas City, Des Moines, and Sioux Falls paid off. According to independent surveys conducted by Scarborough Research, a total of 402,212 visitors from those cities came to Omaha for an overnight visit during 2015, a 9.3 percent increase over 2014. Think about it: if each of these visitors spent $100 while in Omaha, that’s a $40 million payoff for our city.

So next time you’re on Jeopardy and they ask how many people visit Omaha each year, aim high…we do. B2B

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

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