Fall is a beautiful time of year to explore Nebraska, but to really appreciate all the state has to offer one must venture off of I-80 and travel the state and county highways. From the lush trees along the riverbanks in the northeast corner of the state, through the green and gold sandhills dotted with cattle and windmills, to the canyons and bluffs of the west - Nebraska is anything but a flat, boring state.

The Nebraska Tourism Passport Program was designed with that idea in mind: to highlight some of the diverse businesses and destinations that make our state so unique. The program got a bit of a late start this year due to Covid, but there is still time to visit those stops and get your passport stamped. The program runs through Oct. 31.

The Passport Program is not only a great opportunity to showcase our state, but it also creates an impressive economic impact for all Nebraskans. According to a study done by Dean Runyan Associates, last year the Nebraska Passport program not only generated $23.7 million in traveler spending but $1.9 million in state and local tax revenue. For every dollar Nebraska Tourism invested in the program, $150 was generated in traveler spending and $12.30 was generated in tax revenue. Additionally, the study found that 82% of passport participants made an overnight trip with 81% of them staying in traditional lodging.

Museums, parks, restaurants, wineries, retail stores and more are invited to participate in the program. Applications are now being accepted for the 2021 Passport program. Any Nebraska destination can apply to become a Passport stop.

Nearly 300 participants have finished all 70 stops in the 2020 program, more than 41,000 Nebraska Passport booklets have been requested and 10,142 accounts on the app have been created. Some of the requirements for Nebraska Passport stops are:

Offer an exceptional, unique visitor experience.

Be open regular, reasonable, consistent hours (including at least one weekend day) during the Nebraska Passport season (May 1 to Sept. 30).

Keep the same hours of operation throughout the Passport season.

Display excellent customer service.

Be a good tourism ambassador for your region. Talk to travelers about other tourism destinations, restaurants, retail stores, etc. in your area that they may be interested in visiting.

To complete the 2021 Passport online application go to https://nebraskapassport.com/passport-details/application/. The 2021 program will run from May 1 – Sept. 30.

The application deadline is Nov. 30. Applicants will be notified in February 2021, and the 2021 Passport stops will be announced in March. There is no fee to participate.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at ellen@gothenburgleader.com or call 308.537.9498