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Omaha Magazine

Omaha CVB: When Omaha Tourism Disappears

Sep 30, 2020 11:43AM ● By T S
Deborah Ward of Omaha CVB

Now we know what Omaha feels like without tourism—quiet. 

For the first time in history, TD Ameritrade Park stood silent during the month of June. Theaters were dark with no performances at Orpheum Theater, Omaha Community Playhouse, or Holland Performing Arts Center. CHI Health Center Omaha held no meetings, and had no sporting events or concerts. Popular attractions known for drawing large crowds—such as Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, restaurants, and retail shops—closed to the public. When tourism disappears, we all feel it.

Since March 2020, Omaha lost more than $246 million in meeting business due to the pandemic. Those groups represent a loss of approximately 147,000 visitors who would have stayed in hotels, visited attractions, dined in restaurants, and spent money in retail shops. Visit Omaha is slowly but surely making progress. To date, our sales team successfully rebooked 12 of those meetings, securing $93 million in business for the city. Seven additional meeting groups, worth another $8 million, are pending.  

As Omaha tourism disappeared, so did jobs supported by the industry. More than 17,826 of our family, friends, and neighbors work in the tourism industry—from wait staff and attraction employees to airline workers and small business owners. Many of them have been laid off
or furloughed. 

The good news is Omaha has a history of bouncing back. After the economic downturn in 2009, Omaha topped Forbes’ list of the nation’s fastest-recovering major metropolitan areas. Editors wrote that the area’s diverse economy, stable housing prices, and low unemployment rate helped Omaha earn the No. 1 spot in their study of the 100 largest metro areas. Today, developers are infusing $2 billion into the city’s airport and downtown riverfront, creating new opportunities for tourism’s future. 

Recently ranked as one of the top mid-size cities in the country for a third year in a row, we all can take comfort in the fact that resilience is sewn into the fabric of our city, and the quiet will soon be replaced with the bustle of tourism. 

This column was printed in the October/November 2020 issue of B2B Magazine.