Nebraska tourism slogan is no more. ‘Everything has a shelf life,’ official says

The tagline, ‘Nebraska, honestly it’s not for everyone,’ stirred criticism from some, including Gov. Pillen

By: - February 5, 2024 10:26 pm
state tourism

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

LINCOLN — Frankly, it was a state tourism slogan that wasn’t for everybody.

On Monday, the Nebraska tourism director announced publicly that it was ditching its edgy, 5-year-old tagline: “Nebraska, honestly it’s not for everyone.”

Officials said the slogan was successful in getting previously uninterested travelers curious about visiting Nebraska, but it had also been criticized — including by Gov. Jim Pillen — as reinforcing the state’s lack of soaring mountains and ocean beaches.

‘Thing of the past’

“It’s a thing of the past,” John Ricks, director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, told members of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee on Monday.

“Times change. Everything has a shelf life,” added David Fudge, executive director of North Platte’s Nebraskaland Days festival.

Nebraska tourism
The 2024 state travel guide doesn’t include the controversial “it’s not for everyone” tagline because it has been dropped by the State Tourism Commission. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Ricks made the revelation during a public hearing in which he requested an increase in spending authority for his commission, from $7.4 million to $10.5 million, to increase marketing of visiting the state.

“We want to keep pounding in Chicago,” Ricks told senators.

Funds for more marketing

The Windy City and Oklahoma City were targets of new state marketing campaigns in the past year that, he said, were financed by federal coronavirus funds.

The increased spending, Ricks emphasized, would be financed by a combination of state lodging taxes and surplus tourism commission funds, not tax dollars.

The marketing, however, won’t include the tagline: “Nebraska, honestly it’s not for everyone.”

Motto increased interest

Ricks said the motto was successful in increasing interest in visiting the state, saying that a survey of tourists in the target market for Nebraska showed interest rising from 19% in 2019 to 39% more recently.

He said that when he was hired 7½ years ago, Nebraska suffered a publicity problem. It ranked last among states that tourists were interested in visiting. It had a reputation as flat, boring and a long way across.

“The only way we could get their attention, honestly, was by agreeing with them, and then counteracting it,” Ricks said.

That led to billboards showing groups of happy people riding down a Sandhills stream in a livestock tank with the headline: “Lucky for you there’s nothing to do here.” Or a billboard of hikers hopping between rock formations at northwest Nebraska’s Toadstool Park with the line, “Famous for our flat, boring landscape.”

Pillen slammed slogan

In the last “Portrait of American Travelers” report last fall, Ricks said that Nebraska had risen to a tie for 41st — up from 50th — as a state travelers were interested in visiting.

But Pillen slammed the slogan during his recent State of the State address, calling it “nonsense” and a barrier to recruiting new residents to the state.

Dropping the slogan comes as a proposal is being considered in the Nebraska Legislature to transfer the now-independent Tourism Commission back under the control of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

Fudge, who was testifying for both the state travel and hospitality associations, called that move “backwards.”

The commission, he said, was moved out of DED a decade ago because its work in promoting the state’s third largest industry was being lost amid a large bureaucracy.

The decision to drop the tagline came last fall, Ricks said, before the governor’s public dart.

Ricks added that most of the criticism of the tagline wasn’t coming from out-of-state visitors, but from Nebraska residents, or former residents, who considered it a putdown, which wasn’t the purpose.

The Appropriations Committee took no action on the request to raise the Tourism Commission’s spending authority after the public hearing Monday.

Editor’s note: This article has been revised to correct the name of the executive director of the Nebraskaland Days festival.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.

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