City benefits from travelers
Anderson: Tourist dollars trickle down to nearly everyone.
First impressions are important.
Especially if you’re going after tourism dollars.
After agriculture and manufacturing, tourism is the third biggest money-maker for the state.
As tourism season heats up, the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce and other organizations are trying hard to attract and keep tourists in town where they spend money.
“What many people don’t understand about tourism is that it’s big business in Gothenburg and contributes greatly to the economy,” said Community Development Office director Anne Anderson.
For example, Anderson said a traveler who buys gas in Gothenburg helps pay the wage of a gas/service station employee.
“That employee then pays to see the dentist or spends money at the grocery store,” Anderson explained. “It trickles down.”
Although Anderson has no way to track tourism revenue in Gothenburg, a study commissioned by state tourism groups, shows that travelers spent $21,500,000 in Dawson County during 2008.
State and local tax revenue from tourist expenditures in the county were figured at $1,700,000 with 440 jobs generated by tourism.
“Our community benefits,” she said.
Anderson noted that nearly 23,000 visitors stopped in Gothenburg in 2009 to visit the Pony Express Station.
“Other communities our size or larger would love to have that many people stopping,” she said.
Travelers who spend money to stay overnight in Dawson County are charged a 5% lodging tax.
Dawson County collected $801,302 in lodging tax from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009.
One percent of the total is given to the state while 2% promotes tourism through advertising in Gothenburg, Cozad and Lexington and smaller communities in the county.
The remaining 2% is used for attraction development and improvement in Dawson County.
The Dawson County Visitor’s Committee, which is presided over by Gothenburg resident Barry McDiarmid, oversees lodging tax improvement money.
Each of the larger communities in the county—Gothenburg, Cozad, Lexington—has a tourism committee that applies for funds.
The visitor’s bureau then decides who will receive lodging tax proceeds and the amount.
Anderson said the lodging tax improvement fund has provided local, non-profit entities with $13,391 in grant funds since it began in 2004.
The first payment for improvements—in 2004—was given to the Angels softball organization for field conditioner.
Lodging tax money has also been spent for new playground equipment in Ehmen Park and for improvements to the roping grounds, the Sun Theatre, the high school track, Road 768 to Wild Horse Golf Club, the Shining Light Christmas celebration, the Blue Star memorial sign, the Pony Express Station and the Gothenburg Historical Museum.
Each organization or improvement must be nonprofit to receive the funds.
Smaller communities of Farnam, Overton, Sumner and Eddyville all receive a smaller percentage of lodging tax proceeds.
When asked what he’d like to see on a tourism wish list for Gothenburg, McDiarmid—who also chairs the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce’s tourism committee—said he’d like to see tourists leaving the city with the right impression.
“We’re a friendly community,” McDiarmid said.
That’s achieved by how Gothenburg citizens are involved in the community, he said.
“They need to be aware of what the community has to offer,” McDiarmid said.
“Ask visitors you see if they need help,” she said. “A lot of times they go where you recommend to eat or see.”
She added that comments the Chamber receives from travelers often center around how pretty and friendly the community is.
Some even say that Gothenburg reminds them of a scene in a Norman Rockwell painting.
Tourism wants on Anderson’s list include:
- welcome banners along the overpass and interpretive signs at Lake Helen.
- expansion of the historical museum.
- improve entrances into the community with signage and other things.
- the planting of trees along south Highway 47 to Interstate 80.
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