Local officials hope motor coach operator tour bolsters tourism

A.R. Swanson, in the role as Mr. Salsbury, greets a group of motorcoach tour operators inside the front door of the mansion on the grounds of the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. The group was visiting North Platte on Friday as part of a familiarization tour of western Nebraska.

About a dozen motor coach operators from about six different states got a chance to sample some of the local history and flavor of the North Platte area Friday. The group made stops at the Golden Spike Tower, the Lincoln County Historical Museum, the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park, Dusty Trails Ranch and the Ford Cody Trading Post over the morning and afternoon. The hope is it leads the operators to making the area part of a destination tour package for their customers in the future.

“People might think of Nebraska as only a corn state with just farming and all of that, but there is a lot of great heritage here with Buffalo Bill and the (World War II) canteen that we can be very proud of,” said Dusty Barner, operator of Dusty Trails. “This is a good way to showcase it.”

North Platte was one of the final stops for the group on their familiarization tour of the western portion of Nebraska. The operators, who hailed from California, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey headed to Omaha on Friday night for a marketplace convention sponsored by the American Bus Association.

One portion of the stop in North Platte was a “Ride with the Wild Bunch” event which started with a tour of the mansion on the grounds of the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park and the Scout’s Rest Ranch.

Barner then transported the group on a wagon ride, led by the Clydesdale team of King and Queen, to the Lincoln County Historical Museum where they were served a dutch oven lunch.

Bruce Richman in the role of Buffalo Bill rode along with the tour and was just one individual in character for the group. Barner rode up to the front of the mansion on his horse as the group arrived at the Buffalo Bill State Park in the character of “Bad Bart” and Meghan Manary was in the role of Buffalo Bill’s wife, Louisa.

A.R. Swanson led the group in the mansion tour as Mr. Salsbury, the manager of Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show.”

“(The operators) are looking at seeing what North Platte has to offer tour groups,” said Lisa Burke, the executive director of the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitor’s Bureau. “What they are looking for is an experience that is above and beyond what a normal tourist would see if they came to North Platte.

“When (the companies) bring in a tour, (the group) is spending about $13,000 a day with us,” Burke said. “It’s a huge economic impact for all of our tourism partners and hotel and restaurants.”

According to the American Bus Association, motor coach travel and tourism generated spending of $465.4 million in Nebraska’s third congressional district in 2018 overall.

This week marked the first visit to western Nebraska for Tim Moulder, an agent for Brilliant Edventures — a company based out of St. Simons Island, Georgia. The tour made a mark on him.

“There is a lot of history here,” said Moulder, whose company is a wholesaler that puts together travel packages for tour operators and agencies. “The train yard was amazing this morning — it’s fascinating how much traffic goes through there. The logistics are just overwhelming.

“We were in Ogallala (on Thursday) and there is a lot of history there, too,” Moulder said. “If you like history this area would be a great place to come.”

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