Dipra Jha, assistant professor of practice in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management presented an alternative visitor engagement strategy at the recent Upper Midwest Convention and Visitors Bureau Conference. This year’s conference was hosted by the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau at the Holiday Inn Downtown, Sept. 14-16. It attracted leaders, professionals and tourism industry partners like Tripadvisor from around the United States. The conference rotates annually among cities in the Upper Midwest and is an important event for tourism professionals in the region.
Jha’s presentation “Engaging Visitors through Experience Design” suggested that more and more visitors are seeking memorable travel experiences. Therefore, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), such as convention and visitors bureaus, need to embrace an experience economy model and stage memories that will transform visitors into passionate advocates for host communities. Citing examples like “100% Pure New Zealand,” Jha argued, as destinations compete for visitors, success will depend upon a robust experience design and staging strategy.
Jha was invited to present at the conference by Jeff Maul, vice president and executive director of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau. Jha regards Maul as an outstanding leader whose efforts have helped Lincoln achieve much success in tourism and destination image. Both are excited about Lincoln’s growth and attractiveness as an “experience” city. Tourism is a key contributor to Lincoln’s economy. The city offers more than 4,700 hotel rooms spread over 61 properties, ranging from budget to upscale accommodations. Additional hotel projects are in the pipeline and will be built within the next few years. New facilities like the Pinnacle Bank Arena and the Railyard are making Lincoln a concert and culinary destination; generating income, jobs, taxes for the city and goodwill for the community. In addition, each football weekend brings in excess of $4 million in revenue to Lincoln.
The Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management program enjoys excellent working relationship with the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau. Internships allow students to learn about the CVB’s role in promoting Lincoln as a destination, and several graduates from the program are now working for the organization full-time. Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management is one of the fastest growing majors at UNL and resides in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences in the College of Education and Human Sciences.