PAPILLION, Neb. (KMTV) — Sarpy County Tourism is already seeing high numbers when it comes to hotel, motel and campground visits. 2019 was its record year with $42 million in lodging sales. This year, the county's tourism director expects they'll "break records."
In 2022, through May, receipts outpaced those same months in 2019 by more than a $1 million.
"Some of the national folks are calling it 'revenge travel,' where people have been cooped up from '20 and '21 and they plan on getting out no matter what," said Sarpy County Tourism Director Fred Uhe.
Longwoods International is a travel market research company that reports more than 44% of travelers aren't taking as many trips. Those who do travel are staying closer to home now.
"What is really important to me? Spending time with my family, spending time with my friends. I don't necessarily have to go somewhere to do that as far as travel to another state or another country or whatever. I can do that right here," said Zoe Olson, the executive director of the Nebraska Hospitality Association.
It's not just the metro. Across the whole state of Nebraska people are finding a place to stay.
"We've had record-setting months three months in a row — so March, April and May. May is the last number we had. They're all-time records for that individual month dating back to 1980," said John Ricks, the executive director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission.
Ricks lists out some "gems" tourists are discovering.
"The Doorly Zoo is obviously a big attractor. There's some really cool places out west too. Out in Chadron, Toadstool, Alliance with Carhenge — all those things are popular in their own ways. Off in Valentine — the Niobrara River," Ricks said.
Considering tourism is the state's third largest industry, Uhe insists you don't have to venture too far to satisfy a need for wanderlust.
"People will tell me, 'I have lived here most of my life, I've never been here, I've never been there.' Go out and experience it," Uhe said.
So far, total visitor spending in Nebraska is estimated at more than $1 billion. The City of Omaha has seen more than $5 million visitors so far this year from out of town.