Creation of tourism commission proposed

A bill that would create the Nebraska Tourism Commission was discussed during a Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Feb. 2.

Under LB1053, introduced by Ellsworth Sen. LeRoy Louden, all powers and duties of the travel and tourism division of the state Department of Economic Development would be transferred to the newly formed commission. Louden said he introduced the bill to encourage more focus on tourism.

“The reason I introduced this is to grant the travel and tourism division independence from the Department of Economic Development,” Louden said. “It will allow the commission to work more closely with the tourism industry and better promote Nebraska.”

The commission would consist of one representative from each of the state’s tourism regions. Members would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. All current employees of the travel and tourism division would become employees of the commission.

Andy Licht, representing the Nebraska Hotel and Motel Association, testified in support of the bill, saying the change would have a positive impact on the state’s third-largest industry.

“This bill opens new horizons for tourism,” Licht said. “It could greatly enhance the stature of tourism and lodging in Nebraska.”

Catherine Lang, director of the department, testified in a neutral capacity. She asked the committee to wait for the results of an interim study on the current status of tourism in Nebraska.

“The strategic plan, presented in September, will positively impact the entire industry,” Lang said. “Let the plan finish before making any drastic changes to the current structure.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action.

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