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New Mexico Tourism Industry Enjoys Boom

on November 2, 2017 - 10:01am

Regional Tourism Economy Panel members from left, Los Alamos County Community Services Department Director Brian Brogan, Assistant to the County Manager Linda Matteson, Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott, Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck and Cynthia Delgado of TOURISM in Santa Fe. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/  

New Mexico Hospitality Association President Jen Schroer speaks during the summit. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/



Los Alamos Daily Post



The tourism industry is gaining more and more traction throughout the state, including Los Alamos. New Mexico Hospitality Association President and CEO Jen Schroer reported the good news during the Regional Tourism Economic Summit Wednesday, Oct. 25, in Fuller Lodge.

According to baseline date for state and regional tourism, Schroer reported that a record was set in 2016 on the number of visits in New Mexico. She said 34.4 million trips were made to the state.

Additionally, tourism-related spending increased by $782 million or 14 percent.

Locally, Shroer reported that the gross receipt taxes (GRT) from visitors has enjoyed a “pretty significant increase.” According to the presentation, in 2016, GRT from accommodations and food totaled $22,410,954. Additionally, GRT from arts, entertainment and recreation firms totaled $2,241,397 in 2016.

Los Alamos County has generated a healthy amount of lodger tax revenue, which is significant because there isn’t a lot of lodging establishments in town, she said. Shroer said it was a great example of how Los Alamos can make each dollar spread.

The County’s efforts to nurture its tourism industry has been extensive, said Los Alamos County Marketing Specialist Kelly Stewart. It is developing branding, wayfinding and strategic tourism plans. She pointed out that Los Alamos has numerous assets going for it including three national parks: Bandelier National Monument, the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park as well as outdoor recreation and opportunities for retail businesses.

The hope, Stewart said, is to encourage the national parks’ visitors, Bandelier in particular, to come to Los Alamos. Still, Los Alamos has enjoyed an influx of tourists.

“Our tourism numbers are going up,” she said.

Additionally, the County is focusing on its brand essence, creating ah-ha moments and cultivating curiosity.

“We feel we are on the verge of great things,” Stewart said.

Los Alamos County also is involved in the Regional Tourism Economy Panel. Members include Los Alamos County Community Services Department Director Brian Brogan, Assistant to the County Manager Linda Matteson, Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott, Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck and Cynthia Delgado of TOURISM in Santa Fe.

The panel fielded a number of questions. One asked for details on new developments in the tourism industry.

Deck said the Bradbury Science Museum has acted as a portal to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. She explained students from Highlands University created exhibits to promote the new national park.

“Coming to the Bradbury can enhance your experience,” Deck said.

Lott said the best things that would benefit Bandelier are low gas prices and no fires. He added there is a new opportunity at Bandelier; a contract for a restaurant is being advertised.

“I really think this is a great opportunity … I think this business ... it’s a good time to get in.”

Another contract being advertised is for a rental equipment business for winter activities. Lott said the winter season is a slow time for Bandelier so having the business would be “the biggest opportunity to expand and grow.”

Matteson said the County is working to expand its tourism experiences. For instance, it is undertaking a wayfinding plan, which will implement a signage system.

“We’re excited to get that plan and implement it,” she said, adding that the historic walking tour has been upgraded with improved signs and more pictures to really enhance the tourist’s experience.

Brogan said other recent developments include renovating the Los Alamos History Museum and providing wifi at Fuller Lodge and Ashley Pond. He added there’s an assessment on the Canyon Rim Trail and planning is underway for existing and future amenities.

One hot trend, Delgado said, is the idea of storytelling. As the infrastructure for tourism is built, she said it is important to bring in the story around it and connect the history and its context.

She encouraged Los Alamos to “think about what is your story.”

“It’s really important; (you) need for that visitor to connect to our destination,” Delgado said.

When asked about challenges facing the local tourism industry, Deck said one hurdle is attracting a younger crowd to Los Alamos. She pointed out that 90 percent of visitors are traveling to the area for the first time. Deck said they are also mostly mature individuals with discretionary incomes. What she would like to see is a younger audience coming to Los Alamos to learn about its history.

How to get young people to tourist attractions is a question that never goes away, Delgado said. She said usually people at different ages are doing certain things and have a certain amount of money.


“It’s a lifecycle,” and the tourism industry needs appeal to that lifecycle, she said.

With regard to Bandelier, “We’ve become a victim of our success,” Lott said.

He said even with the Atomic City Transit offering shuttle services, the parking lot at the park reaches capacity. Another challenge is due to being a federal government entity, Bandelier is limited on how it can promote and market itself.

Matteson said the limited number of hotels in the area impacts the number of overnight visitors. While there are a lot of daytime visitors, she said there is a desire to get more people to stay the night.

“That lack of lodging has really been stifling our growth,” Matteson said.

Brogan also identified lodging as an obstacle. He mentioned it is tough to attract big events because the town’s lodging can not support it. Having overnight visitors also provides an opportunity for them to see the smaller stuff Los Alamos offers in addition to its main attractions.

When asked what role the private sector could play, Brogan said it would be great to have more restaurants and hotels. He added businesses that provide guided tours also would be a benefit to the local tourism industry.

Lott urged patience in the effort to grow tourism. He mentioned two of Los Alamos’ three national parks are fairly new and it will take time for businesses to take notice of them.

“It’s going to take time for us to become a destination,” he said.

A member of the local business community, Fusion Multisport owner Brad Nyenhuis, observed Los Alamos is focusing on what it currently offers visitors and making them better so people will be tempted to stay longer. While he felt this was a good thing to do, Nyenhuis recommended looking into other markets as well.

A representative from New Mexico Wine Tours said partnerships are very important and vital for a businesses success.

“It’s bringing people into their business,” she said.

Another recommendation was to put in a zip-line ... if you want to get young people up here, it’s a no brainer, the speaker said.