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Omaha Magazine

Omaha CVB: Looking to the Future

Jan 17, 2021 01:15PM ● By Deborah Ward
Omaha CVB's Deborah Ward

Since the pandemic hit almost a year ago, the community has gained a real understanding of what happens when tourism in our city disappears. During a typical year, Omaha tourism generates $2 billion for our community and employs almost 18,000 of our friends, families, and neighbors. 

In 2020, COVID-19 took a packed calendar of events and virtually cleared it of sporting events, concerts, conventions, and business meetings that would have brought hundreds of thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to our city. Omaha lost more than $254 million in meeting and event business alone, and many working in the airline industry, at hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and attractions were laid off or furloughed. 

The negative economic impact of COVID-19 has lingered over the Omaha businesses that serve all of those events. Hotel revenue in 2020 dropped by more than $120 million, a 55% loss over 2019. Omaha welcomed 2.2 million fewer overnight visitors in 2020, and that is not just a loss for hotels. It means fewer customers in our restaurants. Smaller numbers of shoppers in our retail stores. And far fewer guests at local attractions. 

Looking ahead to this year, we are cautiously optimistic. With the approval of vaccines, and pent-up demand among travelers increasing, we are hopeful that we may see a break toward the middle of the year. In the meantime, it is more important than ever that we remain connected and supportive. 

For those who wonder what you and your company can do for those hit hard by the pandemic, we have some recommendations.  We suggest supporting local businesses and patronizing them whenever possible. And when the time is right, invite out-of-town family, friends, and customers to Omaha. Because bottom line, when tourism succeeds our community succeeds—2020 taught us that lesson the hard way.

This column was printed in the February/March 2021 issue of B2B Magazine.