April 1, 2015
by Lori McGinnis Black, Lincoln Business Journal

Lincoln has seen boosted tourism industry, thanks to the development of the Haymarket, the Pinnacle Bank Arena and the opening of new hotels.

Downtown Lincoln has experienced more tourists recently as result of the Pinnacle Bank Arena, said Todd Ogden, deputy director of the Downtown Lincoln Association.

The arena has brought entertainment to the area and has boosted other business as well, he said.

The Nebraska Tourism Commission has been able to promote tourism by working with other agencies across Nebraska, said Kathy McKillip, commission director.

Travelers are finding Lincoln is great rest stop between destinations, said Julie Campbell, senior sales manager at The Cornhusker, Marriott Hotel. The Cornhusker is seeing an increase in international travelers, she said.

Lincoln is experiencing substantial growth in hotel development, said Derek Feyerherm, director of sales and operations with Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The past two years have seen more tourists coming to Lincoln, largely because of the arena, Ogden said.

“Pinnacle Bank Arena has attracted top name artists which have brought new people to the area to enjoy not only the arena events but the neighboring private development as well,” Ogden said.

Downtown Lincoln has seen the development of three new boutique style hotels over the last couple of years. The Courtyard Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt Place are now all in service in the Haymarket area.

This has added more extensive tourist element to downtown Lincoln, which includes the already established Holiday Inn, Embassy Suites and Cornhusker Marriott, Ogden said.

Tourism is strong in Nebraska and particularly in Lincoln, McKillip said.

“We work closely with our partners across the state to grow and promote the tourism industry,” she said.

Lincoln in particular is strong example of forward and innovative thinking, she said. The new entertainment district has generated buzz and is bringing high-caliber entertainers and events to the area. Lincoln has successfully blended The Railyard with the Historic Haymarket in way that preserves the charm and appeal of both. “The travel writers we’ve brought in to experience it have all been very impressed,” McKillip said.

Outside of the downtown area, there are some great new restaurants, shopping and outdoor recreation opportunity that make Lincoln good place to visit, she said.

International travelers are staying in Lincoln to attend events such as the Berkshire Hathaway convention and the Thespian Festival, Campbell said.

“Lincoln is great stop for guests traveling through Nebraska who need rest between destinations,” she said. “We have many tour buses that are traveling across the Midwest and stop in Lincoln to enjoy dinner, overnight accommodations and breakfast.”

Travelers coming into Lincoln won’t find shortage of hotel space. Several new hotels are being built in Lincoln near the airport as well as near Interstate 80 and North 27th Street, Campbell said.

Three hotels are scheduled to open this summer, including TownePlace Suites by Marriott and Best Western off 27th Street and Interstate 80, and Hampton Inn by the Lincoln Municipal Airport, Feyerherm said.

These hotels will add nearly 275 hotel rooms to the Lincoln market. Three other hotels will open in mid to late 2016, which will result in 10 percent increase in hotel rooms in Lincoln in just two years.

“The tourism market in Lincoln is growing leaps and bounds,” he said.

In 2013 and 2014, the tourism market that includes group tours and motor coach operators represented percent of the total number of events booked each year by the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, up from percent in 2012.