Tag Archives: Keith Backsen

Omaha Offers a Travel-Worthy Food Experience

July 26, 2018 by

There are numerous reasons why visitors travel to Omaha. Some are in the city for business or a convention, while others come for an extended weekend getaway to see attractions like the zoo and museums. But there is another reason Omaha is growing in popularity—our food.

In every corner of the city, you’ll find authentic cultural culinary creations that make Omaha quite the foodie destination. You can eat pizza certified by the Italian government at Dante in West Omaha and savor a steak prepared by a James Beard Award nominee at The Grey Plume in Midtown. In North Omaha, nobody does soul food like Big Mama’s–just ask the folks at the Travel Channel. And, despite a culture of fast food, in South Omaha you’ll find the Lithuanian Bakery, where bakers take three days to make a mouth-watering old-world Napoleon torte. 

 Having restaurants that offer such unique cuisine is the cornerstone of building Omaha’s travel-worthy reputation, an equally important component is letting visitors know about our great food scene. In April of this year, Visit Omaha hosted a Foodie Blogger tour to see how many bloggers would be interested in telling Omaha’s story—25 bloggers expressed interest. Out of those 25, Visit Omaha selected four bloggers with the most impressive audience numbers and invited them to enjoy Omaha’s food scene on us. 

The bloggers traveled from Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, and Minnesota. They visited Monarch Prime and learned how the restaurant dry-ages its steaks in-house. They took a culinary class at Provisions by The Grey Plume and experienced making their own pasta. The bloggers also enjoyed samplings at half-a-dozen foodie hot spots on an Omaha culinary tour. They did not leave disappointed; each was impressed with their Omaha dining experience and now plans to share Omaha’s story with a hungry audience of more than 357,000.

 The economic impact when visitors explore Omaha’s food scene is huge. Research shows that out-of-town guests spend $304 million every year on food and drinks while visiting our city. Those dollars help keep people in our community employed. These people—from wait staffs, to chefs and their kitchen staffs, to the drivers delivering the supplies to the restaurant—all have jobs thanks, in part, to all the tourists spending their money here. 

If it has been a while since you have had an evening out, give Omaha’s food scene a try. Omaha Restaurant Week (Sept. 14-23) is a great opportunity to try a new restaurant, or a new dish at an old favorite. After all, if people are traveling from places like Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio to sample the flavor of Omaha, it’s definitely worth the trip outside your neighborhood. 


Visit omaharestaurantweek.com for details.

This letter was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

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

Take a Vacation and Create Jobs

March 23, 2018 by

When is the last time you took a vacation? I mean a real vacation, not just time off work to paint the kitchen or clean out the garage. Has it been a while since you’ve discovered a new place or experienced a new adventure you couldn’t wait to share with family and friends? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.

In Nebraska, 66 percent  of the workforce has unused vacation time. They’ve left 4.9 million vacation days on the table. Nationally, if everyone took all the vacation they’ve earned, it would generate $236 billion for our economy—enough to support 1.8 million jobs.

Think about it: if hotels had more guests, then they would need more staff. If restaurants had more diners, they would need to order more food from suppliers and hire more people. If retailers had more shoppers, they would need more merchandise to keep shelves stocked and more staff to provide great customer service. Inviting more people to visit Omaha would have the same effect in our community. You get the picture—tourism means business.

According to research from U.S. Travel, taking time off makes you a more positive and productive employee. In fact, the research shows employees who use their vacation time are more likely to get promoted and receive raises when compared to those who choose to forfeit their vacation time. Plus, and here’s the real bonus, people who take time off feel happier and enjoy improved physical health.

If you’re still not sure about taking time off, think about it this way: by taking a vacation, you’re helping create millions of jobs and providing a big boost to our nation’s economy. Now add that to your resume.

*Research provided by U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off, The State of the American Vacation.

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

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

It’s True, Tourism Touches All of Our Lives

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Astonished. That’s the word that describes colleagues, friends, family, and groups when they learn what tourism looks like in our city. Ask a family member or friend to guess how many visitors come to Omaha each year and chances are their answer will not even come close. New research shows 12.3 million visitors travel to Omaha each year—that’s more than the total population of Portugal or Greece. They visit for weekend getaways, to see family and friends, to attend conferences, sporting events and concerts, and to conduct business. And while here they spend money. Visitors spend $1.2 billion every year at our restaurants, attractions, hotels, retail shops, and other enterprises. Their spending contributes to our local economy, tax revenue, community development, and other important benefits we all enjoy.

Visitor spending also creates jobs—17,280 of them. One in every 17 jobs in Omaha is supported by visitor spending, which means you probably know someone who has a job in tourism, or has a job thanks to tourism. In fact, tourism is the eighth largest private sector employer in Omaha. 

Still don’t think your life is touched by tourism? Let’s talk taxes. Taxes generated by visitor spending saves each Douglas County household $730 per year. If visitors stop coming to Omaha and stop spending their money here, your taxes would go up or the current level of government services would go down. We would also see a significant number of jobs lost in the tourism industry if visitors did not show up.    

You can help Omaha’s tourism numbers grow even bigger. Keep inviting family and friends to visit. If your business, association, or industry hosts meetings, conferences, trade shows, reunions, or any other special event, invite them to Omaha and provide an economic boost to our economy.

After seeing the numbers, people get it—tourism is a big deal and a great deal for our city.

Visit Omaha can help.

If bringing a meeting home seems overwhelming to you, Visit Omaha, Omaha’s official tourism authority, is here to help at no cost.  Visit Omaha has the expertise and resources to help make your meeting or event, a success. Check out visitomaha.com/meetings to start planning your event.

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

This column was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Omaha Tourism—A Legacy Business

August 23, 2017 by

Visit Omaha, Omaha’s official tourism authority, turns 37 this year. While not a milestone birthday per se, Omaha tourism has certainly seen milestones through the years.

The CVB was created in 1980 as a department of Douglas County with the goal to promote Omaha to visitors and attract convention business to the area. Conventions were held at the former Omaha Civic Auditorium, the only downtown hotel with convention-hosting capacity was the 444-room Red Lion (now the downtown DoubleTree), and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium was just a typical zoo. In 2017, we have a 346,000-square-foot downtown convention center and arena, more than 3,000 downtown hotel rooms, a 24,000-seat downtown ballpark, a 3,000-foot-long pedestrian bridge, and our zoo is now world-renowned. While the goals of Visit Omaha haven’t changed, the product certainly has, and the value tourism brings to our city has grown tremendously.

Tourism in an important economic engine for the city. During an average year, Omaha welcomes 11.9 million visitors. Those visitors spend $1.1 billion annually. The money visitors spend at our restaurants, attractions, hotels, retail shops, and other enterprises contribute to our local economy, providing jobs and income, tax revenue, community development, and other benefits. 

From wait staff to small business owners, tourism means jobs. The odds are you know someone who works in the tourism industry. In fact, one in every 17 jobs in Omaha is supported by visitor spending, making tourism the ninth-largest private sector employer in the city.

The amount of taxes generated by out-of-town visitors means Douglas County households pay $682 less in taxes each year. Tourism’s decrease means taxes would go up and/or city/county services would go down.

Growth in tourism has not happened by accident. City leaders had the foresight to create developments that enhance Omaha’s appeal, which allows Visit Omaha to promote and market Omaha as an even bigger and better leisure and convention destination.

After 37 years, tourism has certainly earned its place as a legacy business here in Omaha.

Learn more about tourism through the eyes of residents in a series of videos at whattourismlookslike.com.

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

Building More than Bridges

May 19, 2017 by

Omaha is home to some big players in the architecture, engineering, and design world. Companies like HDR, Leo A Daly, and DLR Group are a few that call Omaha home.

Our lives are touched daily by the work they do. If you’ve driven on the West Dodge Expressway, used one of our state-of-the-art medical facilities, or enjoyed the ambience of a coffee shop or hotel, then you understand the magnitude of their work. But few realize the role they play in helping us bring conferences, meetings, and events to our city. 

The tremendous success of Omaha’s business community is also a great asset in helping Visit Omaha bring conferences, meetings, and events home. It’s one of the reasons our city recently hosted the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives for their annual convention. This group is made up of more than 200 influential scientific and technology associations, which are now more familiar with Omaha and may choose to bring a future
meeting here.

In 2016, thanks to local businesses and people like you, Visit Omaha hosted more than 342 meetings, events, and tours that brought more than $229 million into our economy. Visit Omaha also booked an additional 186 events for future years, worth more than $86 million. These are big numbers and showcase tourism’s impact on our city. But local business operations also win. Conventions such as CESSE can shine a light on an industry, help recruit future talent to our city, or even inspire a new business to set up shop here.

We know your endorsements often lead to meeting groups choosing Omaha, and we encourage you to bring your next event home. Our team at Visit Omaha can help you think through the details, provide expertise on hotels, venues, and attractions, and create a successful event that benefits both you and the city.

When you build these types of relationships, you’re building more than bridges.

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

This column was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.