Tourism dollars can boost state

Tourism dollars can boost state

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Tourism dollars can boost state

By Mike Cook

Las Cruces Bulletin

The drop in gasoline prices isn’t all bad news for New Mexico’s economy. Sure, it hurts the oil and gas industry, but it’s good for tourism.

Lower prices at the pump mean families may have up to $1,000 extra to spend, and “that’s great for tourism,” said New Mexico Department of Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham during a visit to Las Cruces on Friday, Nov. 20 to speak at a Leadership New Mexico meeting.

“Tourism has the potential to offset revenue lost by oil and gas,” said Latham, 37, who has been NMDOT secretary for almost a year. It “is the front door to economic development.”

“We’re right on the cusp of something so great,” Latham said. “You can feel it.” With a theme of “Adventure steeped in culture,” New Mexico tourism has “what American consumers are craving,” she said.

‘A leader in job growth’

NMDOT’s current budget is $18.4 million,

REBECCA LATHAM Enticing regional tourists

Latham said NMDOT’s marketing in Dallas and Houston is producing “huge growth” in tourist visits from Texans. “We also have regional marketing efforts in Amarillo, Lubbock and the west Texas area,” she said. New Mexico is also seeing an increase in visitors from Chicago, Phoe- nix and Denver; and, “we’ve recently added San Diego as a market,” Latham said, adding that the state has “a great draw from California,” especially to Santa Fe and Taos.

If the Legislature approves NMDOT’s request for $4 million in additional advertising, the department will add the San Francisco market to its campaign, and that will include Silicon Valley, Latham said. “If we can open the eyes of those decision-makers in the Silicon Valley and get them here on vacation, there is a much stronger likelihood they’ll consider us for their next economic development project,” she said. NMDOT research drives the department’s advertising toward those markets that are responding. And, like the San Francisco area, they tend to be recovering from the 2008 recession more quickly than New Mexico. “Let’s get their money here to speed up our recovery,” Latham said.

In 2015, NMDOT spent $9.35 million on advertising, a 274 percent increase over 2011’s $2.5 million, she said. Today, advertising accounts for 69 percent of NMDOT’s total budget, compared to 27 percent prior to 2010. “We’ve been able to put every last penny toward advertising,” Latham said.

Adopted daughter of NM

Latham, a Florida native, first visited New Mexico 12 years ago as a tourist, making a weekend ski trip to Albuquerque. “I had never seen snow before,” she said. Latham met her husband that weekend. She moved to New Mexico not long after that and spent eight years as tourism and economic development director for Red River in Taos County before becoming communications director at NMDOT and then department secretary.

“I married a New Mexican, I am raising two New Mexicans (their children). I consider myself an adopted daughter of the state,” Latham said, adding that she feels “more connected to New Mexico” than she ever did to Florida.

For more information, visit http://www.newmexico. org/.

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