New Mexico to boost group travel efforts

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SANTA FE, N.M. -- The New Mexico Department of Tourism plans to increase initiatives this year to boost business from the group travel market.

"We are going to have an opportunity to step up efforts since we recently received an influx of dollars for advertising and promotion from our Legislature," said Janet Green, the state's secretary of tourism.

With the larger budget, the department is laying plans to increase the state's number of motorcoach travelers, about 325,000 annually.

Among the initiatives to begin this summer are the launch of more outreach programs for the trade, Green said, including fam trips, which the department has not offered in three years. The program also will include an increase in the use of technology to target the group travel market, with e-mail promotions and Web site enhancements, Green said, adding that the department's trade division currently is being reorganized to promote the state more efficiently.

The department also will continue to participate in major industry trade shows, such as annual events of the American Bus Association and the National Tour Association.

According to Green, the most popular areas in New Mexico for motorcoach tours are the "grand corridor," which includes Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos; the southeast, which includes Carlsbad, and the northwest, which is known as Indian Country and includes Gallup, Grants and Farmington.

On the event front, the largest draw for group tours is the annual Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which last year drew 276 motorcoaches with 9,300 passengers.

Attendance overall at the 1998 fiesta was 1.6 million. Gaining in popularity with group travelers are areas of the state that feature Native American cultural tourism, Green said. "One of the main reasons people come to New Mexico is the history and Native American culture," Green said. "One of the unique things about New Mexico is that it's so diverse. We have 23 tribes and 19 pueblos."

The department established an Indian tour program a few years ago. It has worked to create manuals and to help tribes develop tourism. Green said the department now is in the process of improving outreach programs with the tribes and pueblos, and interest in Native American cultural tourism is expected to grow significantly over the next few years.

Green added that many of New Mexico's Indian gaming sites are developing resorts and golf courses, which are expected to lure motorcoach travelers.

A number of planned attractions also will be top group travel draws, she said. Among them are the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, scheduled to open in June in Grants. Also on tap is a New Mexico hot-air-balloon museum in Albuquerque, which has not set an opening date.

New Mexico Department of Tourism

Phone: (505) 827-7400
NewWeb: www.newmexico.org

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