David Fudge of North Platte has been elected to a second term president of the Nebraska Travel Association.

The NETA elected new leadership at its annual meeting in May, opting for experience as the tourism industry digs its way out of 2020, when the pandemic decimated the tourism industry.

“Our industry was deeply affected by the pandemic, and while we’re hopeful that it rebounds quickly, we must remain at the ready to help advocate for our members who struggled through 2020,” said Nebraskaland Days Executive Director David Fudge, who was chosen to serve as president.

Fudge has served on the NETA board since 2017 and was president in 2018-19.

Tourism is Nebraska’s third leading industry. It is rebounding after one of its worst performances in history due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Lodging tax fell by about 30% in the state, representing a $1.6 million loss in revenue. Overall, visitor expenditures plummeted from $3.5 billion in 2019 to $2.1 billion in 2020, roughly a 40% decline.

Clear signs of recovery are emerging. The number of people shopping Nebraska and navigating to VisitNebraska.com in the fiscal year ending June 30 increased by 50%, reaching more than 830,000 – the highest number of site visits, by about 200,000.

“Our industry must be prepared to capitalize on this early 2021 momentum so our members can fully recover,” Fudge said. “I’m grateful that we have a solid team in place to help work our way through this.”

NETA’s mission is to promote, protect, and enhance the economic interest of the tourism industry within Nebraska through teamwork, education, public awareness, lobbying, and strategic marketing efforts.

The organization’s executive team includes representation from across the state.

Fudge has been involved with Nebraskaland Days in North Platte since 2005. He spent six years on the board of directors prior to being retained as the executive director in 2011.

The vice president is Michele Hayes of Omaha. Hayes joined Visit Omaha in March 2015. She is the director of visitor services and manages three visitors’ centers – two at the airport and one in downtown Omaha.

The treasurer is Steve Maly of Lincoln, the founder of Maly Marketing. Maly Marketing has won 13 American Marketing Awards and the Friend of Tourism award from the Nebraska Tourism Commission. Maly sits on the board for the NETA along with numerous business boards in Lincoln.

The secretary continues to be Regina Osburn of Valentine. She is the tourism director for Cherry County in the Heart City of Valentine, a position she’s held since the summer of 2019. She is the secretary for NETA in 2020.

The past resident is Traci Jeffery of Norfolk, the executive director of the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau, a position she has held for five years.

© 2021 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.