Tag Archives: CVB

Omaha is Growing as a Holiday Destination

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

Women Mean Business

November 22, 2017 by

Omaha’s tourism industry has come a long way since the Windsor Hotel, a three-story brick building constructed in 1885 in the Old Market, welcomed railroad workers coming into the city’s train station. The Windsor was designed to be a “working man’s hotel,” and back then Omaha businesses, restaurants, and hotels were all led by men. Oh, how times have changed.

Today, women touch every aspect of the business world, including Omaha’s tourism industry. Major tourist attractions such as The Durham Museum, Omaha Children’s Museum, and El Museo Latino are all led by women. These women, along with their staffs, offer creative insight into the world of art and history. The organizations they lead offer relevant, imaginative, and often touchable exhibits that are enjoyed by some of the 12.3 million people who visit Omaha every year.

And it’s the direction and artistic vision of women who provide Omaha with some of the best onstage performances in the country. Women who lead the Omaha Community Playhouse, Blue Barn Theater, and Omaha Performing Arts inspire the cast and crew to create magical theatricals that transports guests to another time and place.

Today, unlike the Windsor Hotel built more than 130 years ago, there are four female general managers running some of the city’s largest hotel properties. Every day, their teams welcome guests to the city and are often the first impression visitors have of Omaha. Local businesses play a big part in the success of Omaha’s tourism industry, too; restaurants where visitors eat, and boutiques where they shop, are many times now owned by women.

Omaha’s attractions, performances, restaurants, and hotels attract visitors to our city—and keep them coming back. It has experienced seven straight years of tourism growth, thanks to all of the women who are helping to shape and lead the industry here in Omaha.

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

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue 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.

Women’s Impact on Tourism

December 20, 2016 by

Who makes the travel decisions in your family? I am betting the majority of you will answer, “I do” (if you are a woman) or “my wife/girlfriend does” (if you are a man). It is typically the woman who plans the family vacations, it is the woman who figures out a way to get the cousins together for a reunion, and it is usually the woman who figures out the logistics of taking their child on college visits. It is also more than likely a woman who plans all the business trips in your office. Experts estimate that women make 70-80 percent of all consumer purchasing decisions, which includes the $947 billion spent on travel each year. 

Not only are they making the travel decisions, more and more women are traveling. At the Women in Travel & Tourism conference early this year, it was revealed that the average traveler was once a 28-year-old male—now it’s a 47-year-old female. This is one of the reasons the advertising we use to convince consumers to travel to Omaha targets women between the ages of 25-54.

Women make the majority of the travel decisions, and on the other side of the coin they also make up nearly 70 percent of the travel, tourism, and hospitality workforce. Think about it: who normally checks you in at the hotel, cleans your hotel room, serves you at the restaurant, takes your ticket at the airport, and plans most of the events, meetings, and conventions? Women. However, experts contend there is a marked underrepresentation of women in senior positions, with women holding less than 40 percent of all managerial positions.

This isn’t the case at Visit Omaha, Omaha’s official tourism authority, where 82 percent of the staff are women and 57 percent of the senior leadership team are women, including our V.P. of convention sales and our V.P. of marketing and communications. If women make up a significant portion of your customer base, it makes sense that they should be represented on management teams. Research shows that companies with gender-balanced teams have a higher ROI, and those are numbers we can all support.

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

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

Omaha Online

July 28, 2014 by

Turn on the TV, open a magazine or get online and chances are you’re going to see advertisements inviting you to visit Kansas City, Des Moines, and South Dakota this summer. A common question from Omaha residents is, “Why don’t we see any Omaha commercials?” The answer is: “If you lived in any of those other places you would.” In fact, you’d be seeing and hearing more about Omaha than ever before.

Typically Omaha commercials inviting people to visit run during the summer travel season. This year families in Kansas City, Des Moines, and Sioux Falls will be seeing ads during the spring, summer, fall, and winter. The nine-month-long, multi-media campaign will expose people to the Omaha invitation a total of 138 million times.

And those millions of invitations take many different forms. There are Omaha regional television advertisements on more than two dozen broadcast and cable networks, radio ads on 10 stations, and online ads on hundreds of websites such as People.com, ABCNews.com, AOL.com, and HGTV.com, just to name a few.

The Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau is collaborating with Southwest Airlines to advertise on its new Wi-Fi portal to complement four months of print ads in Southwest’s in-flight magazine. This means that when Southwest flyers (more than three million a month) log-on to the Internet mid-air they will see Omaha, and when they open the magazine they will see Omaha. (Gotta love a captive audience!)

The Omaha CVB is also partnering with both Orbitz and Expedia to promote special hotel offers. Last year, a three-month campaign on Orbitz increased Omaha hotel bookings through the site by 44 percent. This spring the Omaha CVB invited radio personalities from different regional cities to experience the city with their families. Those same radio folks are now on-the-air talking about their trip and encouraging others to visit.

The expanded advertising campaign allows Omaha to extend the invitation to more and more people, millions and millions of times.

Questions or comments? E-mail us at info@visitomaha.com.
Dana Markel, Executive DirectorOmaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Small Gifts, Big Return

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

As 2012 comes to an end, it’s been a good year for Omaha, and 2013 is starting off in the same fashion. Big events, such as the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January, continue to put Omaha on a national stage and create great buzz for our city. This time of year, we’re also reminded that sometimes the smaller, less shiny things can also be valuable.

Case in point, John Deere and Company held its 2012 North American Dealer meeting in Omaha this past August, bringing with it more than 4,100 overnight visitors. The economic impact of this one meeting was $7.3 million, including more than a half-million dollars generated in local taxes. In 2012, meetings booked through the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau infused more than $25 million into Omaha’s economy.

This illustrates the power meetings have on our local economy in terms we can all understand. It’s been challenging to convey the economic importance of meetings to the local community, but we now have a new way to accurately calculate the impact and pass this important information along to the public.

In partnership with Destination Management Association International, the Omaha CVB has developed a new system of calculating the economic impact of meetings in Omaha and their value to the city and its residents. A trained researcher is now on staff to determine the impact and provide details, including the amount of money spent by visiting participants, meeting planners, and exhibitors, along with the taxes generated by the meeting. The Omaha CVB will calculate the impact for all meetings booked through its office and will provide the service to other entities interested in determining the value of meetings at their facilities.

Happy Holidays, and here’s to a new year of toasting Omaha’s economic health.