KEARNEY — Kearney, along with other communities across the country, will celebrate how travel matters to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being from Monday through May 11.

This year’s National Travel and Tourism Week theme, “Travel Matters,” highlights the innumerable ways in which travel makes up our community culture and economy, according to a press release from the Kearney Visitors Bureau.

“Tourism is seen every week in Kearney by way of people traveling here for sports tournaments, special events, conventions or to just visit,” said Roger Jasnoch, director of the Kearney Visitors Bureau.

Kearney is fortunate to be the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World, hosting 600,000 sandhill cranes each year during their migration and to be located on Interstate 80, one of the busiest interstates in America.

Kearney is home to 1,800 hotel rooms and nearly 300,000 square feet of convention and event space. More facilities are coming to Kearney with construction of a new Holiday Inn with more than 100,000 square feet of attached convention space.

The convention business is the cornerstone of Kearney’s hospitality industry. In addition, the sports market has exploded in recent years. This is a result of venues like, the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, UNK and area high schools increasing our ability to host larger and more frequent events, the Visitors Bureau said.

Kearney has more than 12 attractions, including historical, cultural and family friendly, thanks to places such as Fort Kearny State Historical Park & Recreation Area, Museum of Nebraska Art, The Archway, Kearney Area Children’s Museum and the Classic Car Collection. In addition, Kearney has numerous sports and event venues. Sporting events is one of the fastest growing markets in Kearney.

Tourism is Nebraska’s third largest industry and supports more than 36,000 jobs and generates $3 billion in annual spending.

Buffalo County is the fourth largest convention location behind Omaha, Lincoln and Sarpy County.

Kearney’s diversification depends on our vibrant and healthy tourism industry, said the Visitors Bureau. Tourism in Buffalo County supports more than 1,600 jobs creating $115 million in annual tourism spending for Buffalo County.

In recognition of National Travel and Tourism Week, the Kearney Visitors Bureau will host an industry luncheon on Friday at The Archway and present awards to tourism leaders.

The first full week of May is annually recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week, a tradition first celebrated in 1984. It was established as National Tourism Week when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1983 designating the week to be celebrated in May. In a White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week. Localized events are presented in cities, states and travel businesses nationwide to champion the power of travel.