Contact

If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help:

Nebraska Tourism Commission

301 Centennial Mall South

PO Box 98907

Lincoln, NE 68509-8907

Email: tourism@VisitNebraska.org

Phone: (402) 471-3796

For local convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), or chambers of commerce, and visitor centers please go here.

Nebraska Tourism Staff:

John Ricks, Executive Director

(402) 471-1558 or john.ricks@nebraska.gov

Bryce Arens, Administrative Assistant

(402) 471-3796 or bryce.arens@nebraska.gov

Bryce assists the director with organization of schedules, operational needs, inquiries from visitors via telephone and follows legislative bills related to tourism. He also works with the Tourism Think Tank, or 3T Program, a group of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students in the Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management Program, to establish ideas to incorporate the college demographic into commission operations.

Micheal Collins, Tourism Development Consultant

(402) 471-3795 or micheal.collins@nebraska.gov

Micheal oversees the Nebraska Travel Counselor program and supervises 30–40 seasonal summer staff in various rest areas along Interstate 80. He is also the group travel manager for the state and is looking forward to expanding the group tour market in Nebraska and drawing more bus tours to the state.

Micheal received his bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in urban studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1995. In 1997, he received his master’s degree in planning from the School of Planning at the University of Tennessee. His first job in Nebraska was with the Panhandle Area Development District in Scottsbluff, where one of his primary duties was serving as coordinator of the Nebraska Panhandle Tourism Coalition (now Western Nebraska Tourism Coalition).

When he moved to Scottsbluff in 1997, Micheal planned on living in Nebraska for no more than two years. He found that he really liked living in the state, however, so he applied for a position with the Nebraska Tourism Commission in 2000. He remained in Scottsbluff until relocating to Lincoln in 2002, where he now owns his own home and lives with his cats, Seamus and Stella, and dogs, Sasha and Charlie.

Alexander Duryea, Tourism Development Consultant

(402) 471-3797 or alexander.duryea@nebraska.gov

As the Commission's Eco-Tourism Specialist, Alex works with Nebraska businesses providing services for outdoor event coordination, promotional assistance to Nebraska outfitter businesses, and guided eco-tours for groups and writers wanting to experience the great outdoors of Nebraska. Anything outdoor recreation and eco-tourism related is his specialty, please contact Alex if your organization needs assistance. Alex grew up in Omaha, NE and has had a passion for outdoor recreation his whole life. As an avid cyclist he enjoys all different flavors of cycling. Alex graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and currently resides in Lincoln.

Jenn Gjerde, Public Information Officer

(402) 471-3768 or jenn.gjerde@nebraska.gov

As the Public Information Officer for the Nebraska Tourism Commission, Jenn is involved with media, public relations, agency marketing and helps create content for our social media channels. Jenn grew up in Omaha but her career has taken her to different parts of the state. The former TV news reporter spent more than five years working for TV stations in North Platte and Lincoln. Her experiences across Nebraska have helped her gain a great appreciation for the state, which she is excited to now be promoting.

Jenn graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and History. While in college she was an active member of the University’s club rowing team. She also worked for Husker Vision, where she spent football game days on the field and worked behind the scenes at many other sporting events. She currently lives in the capital city with her husband, Tyler, and their pride and joy, Miley the pug.  Jenn is a lifelong Girl Scout, currently serving on their Homestead Community Advisory Board.

Heather Hogue, Deputy Director/Grant Administrator

(402) 471-3774 or heather.hogue@nebraska.gov

Heather oversees the Commission’s grant opportunities including the Marketing Grant and Community Impact Grant programs, funding assistance programs that encourage Nebraska communities to work together to promote their destinations and events. Heather manages administrative and program operations for the Commission in relation to state government policies, implements procedures regarding the Commission web site and database, supervises the internship program, performs program support for the agency director, and investigates agency programs to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Heather grew up on a family farm outside of Minden, Nebraska and joined the hospitality industry in the 1980s as a teenager learning the ropes at Harold Warp Pioneer Village. She is a graduate of the Lincoln School of Commerce Travel and Tourism Program and accepted a position with the Commission in 2000. Prior to joining the Commission, Heather’s career path included working as a customer service representative at Walt Disney World, booking travel packages as an accredited IATA travel agent, and serving as a travel agency Quality Control Operator. Heather lives in Lincoln with her husband, Mike and their daughter, Maggie.

Hannah Hundley, Marketing Intern

(402) 471-3784 or ntc.tourism3@nebraska.gov

Hannah tackles a variety of projects ranging from urban planning and community development to research, certification renewals, logistics coordination, database and website updating, and social media/email marketing.

Lisa Karnatz, Tourism Development Consultant

(402) 471-3767 or lisa.karnatz@nebraska.gov

As the Commission's Business Development Consultant, Lisa works closely with entrepreneurs and small tourism businesses to ensure that continued viability and successful stability exists among tourism businesses across the state. Whether one-on-one, in a workshop or webinar, or in a conference setting, Lisa assists new and existing entrepreneurs and startups with business and financial direction, resources, technology, mentoring and innovation. She provides networking facilitation between businesses, resources and government to provide tourism advancement while promoting innovation within the Nebraska tourism industry. Lisa has an associate's degree from Southeast Community College and a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She has also earned a Heartland Economic Development degree and is certified as an Accredited Business Planning Advisor. Lisa grew up in Davenport, Nebraska and currently lives in Lincoln where she enjoys working in her yard and spending time with friends.

Karen Kollars, Tourism Development Consultant

(308) 249-3220 or karen.kollars@nebraska.gov

Karen works as the Commission's Agri-Tourism Consultant, assisting tourism entities and helps encourage more rural residents to reach out to travelers wanting to take vacations that involve immersing themselves in ranching or farming experiences. Karen also plans and oversees the Commission's annual Agri/Eco-Tourism Conference and fall Travel Conference, great educational and networking opportunities for Nebraska’s tourism industry partners. She is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organizational Management. She formerly worked for the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce as the executive director and handled tourism and main street responsibilities. Karen has more than 15 years of experience working in the tourism industry.

Karen is actively involved in local, state and national groups. She serves on the advisory councils for the UNL Department of Agricultural Leadership Education & Communication, MarketPlace Nebraska, and the Nebraska Outfitters and Guides Association. She is actively involved with the North American Direct Farmers Market Association, a networking association for farm direct marketing and agri-tourism, as well as the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety’s Agri-Tourism Digital Dissemination Project. Karen also serves as a board member of the Partnership for Rural Nebraska and chairperson for the Western Nebraska Development Network. Karen is a native of Nebraska and has her office in Kearney.

Erin Lenz, Public Relations Intern

(402) 471-3791 or ntc.tourism4@nebraska.gov

Erin assists with public relations strategy for the Commission. She works with the marketing manager to produce engaging press releases, marketing content and information for journalists. She helps represent the Commission at events, trade shows and conferences throughout the state.

Shelley Reed, Accountant II

(402) 471-3776 or shelley.reed@nebraska.gov

Shelley serves as the primary finance agent for the Nebraska Tourism Commission, managing the agency’s accounting operations, policies, and processes. Shelley consults with agency administrators regarding financial matters and performs a wide variety of accounting and related financial tasks including reconciliations of accounts of incoming and outgoing monies, and processing of accounting batches. Shelley also serves as a liaison with members of the public including coordination and interaction with employees and clients of the Commission. In addition to Shelley’s 18+ years of state accounting experience and another 10 years of business manager experience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she holds an Associate’s Degree in Business and a Professional degree from Kaplan University in Clerical Accounting.

Angela Sears, Marketing Manager

(402) 471-7755 or angela.sears@nebraska.gov

Angela is responsible for managing the commission's branding, marketing and public relations efforts. She is the point person for the outside agencies and assists in developing the commission's market research, branding and strategic marketing plans. She also assists journalists, bloggers and travel writers with story ideas, information about tourist destinations and events, and photography to use in their stories. Angela has over 18 years of non-profit and corporate marketing experience. Most of those years were spent as the marketing and member education coordinator for the University of Nebraska Federal Credit Union and as a marketing manager for National Research Corporation. Angela is a graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations. As a native Nebraskan, Angela has called Fremont, West Point, Aurora, Falls City, Nebraska City, Lincoln and now Crete home. She enjoys travel and dabbles in photography.

Erin Wirth, Tourism Development Consultant

(402) 471-3789 or erin.wirth@nebraska.gov

Erin manages the official Nebraska Passport Program and focuses on procuring, developing and coordinating national events hosted in Nebraska. She is responsible for corporate relationship building and increasing collaborative efforts statewide with businesses, attractions, non-profits, county and community tourism related activities. Erin also assists communities in the formulation of local development programs in the area of industrial, tourism and community development.

Erin grew up in Scotia, Nebraska. In high school Erin worked as a tour guide for Happy Jack Chalk Mine, a unique tourism destination. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor of Journalism. Before joining the Commission, Erin worked for the University of Nebraska in program development and marketing. She was named one of Lincoln’s 20 Under 40 due to her professional achievements and community involvement. She has held leadership positions in several non-profit organizations that work to improve the lives of Nebraskans. Erin has won several awards for her marketing work from the American Marketing Association and awards for program development from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. Erin lives in Lincoln with her husband, Rob, and their two dogs, Lucy and Molly.