The state tourism slogan used self-deprecating humor in an attempt to make Nebraska more desirable for tourists. (Courtesy of Nebraska Tourism Commission)

This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.

LINCOLN — Nebraska got a lot of publicity after it unveiled an edgy state tourism slogan in 2018: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

 State Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha
(Courtesy of the Unicameral Information Office)

But a state senator proposed Thursday that more unified messaging might be accomplished if the state’s economic development director and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce were more involved.

After all, the pitch made by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to recruit workers to the state — “The Good Life is Calling” — is a tad different.

State Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha originally proposed in his Legislative Bill 624 that the State Tourism Commission would end its run as an independent entity and return to being a division of DED, as it was prior to 2013.

Putting Nebraska on the map

The Nebraska Tourism Commission reported a record $7.2 million in lodging tax revenue in 2022, up 18.3% over the previous record, set in 2021.

 The commission, in its annual report, also said the slogan, “Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” helped push Nebraska from the “least likely” state for travelers to visit, to 45th in the nation.

“The campaign is helping put Nebraska on the map,” the commission reported.

Original proposal ‘not for everyone’

But, McDonnell joked, his initial proposal “was not for everyone.”

Under a compromise amendment he offered Thursday, the commission would remain independent, but its board of directors would be revamped, with the state DED director joining the 12-member board, as well as a representative of the state chamber.

That, McDonnell said, would lead to more unified messaging in future campaigns to draw tourists and new residents.

“Singing from the same sheet of music,” is how Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer described it during a hearing on the bill.

Representatives of the state’s lodging and travel associations testified in favor of the amended proposal.

They were the groups that had sought an independent tourism commission a decade ago, arguing that tourism promotion would become a higher priority for the state if it wasn’t a part of a larger state agency.

Slogan makes a ‘mockery’ of state

Tony Goins
Tony Goins, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, announces new grants in a youth talent initiative launched by Gov. Pete Ricketts. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

During a legislative hearing Tuesday on DED’s budget request, senators on the Appropriations Committee quizzed DED Director Tony Goins about the alignment of the “Good Life is Calling” campaign with the “It’s not for everyone” tourism slogan.

“It’s not good when we have two different messages out there,” said Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas.

Goins said he didn’t disagree.

“As an agency, we don’t feel we should be made a mockery of,” he said, noting that the slogan was coined by an advertising firm out of Colorado.

The Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee took no action on the bill after a public hearing Thursday.

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