One of the sessions of the Legislative Finance Committee meeting held in Silver City at Western New Mexico University June 12-14 covered Tourism Marketing.
Presenting to the LFC members were Department of Tourism Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson, New Mexico MainStreet Director Rich Williams, and Silver City Arts and Cultural District Director George Julian Dworin.
"My hope today is we continue to encourage you to consider tourism as part of the toolkit for economic development," Jacobson said. "Tourism leads in jobs over the past year. These are jobs from entry level to management and entrepreneurs. We are adding 2000 jobs monthly year-over-year. It has high growth potential, with people starting at the bottom and working their way to the top. Skills learned are highly transferable, especially in customer service and financial skills. Tourism and hospitality jobs can impact large cities and small communities. Consider tourism as true economic development. Our natural assets give us a competitive advantage that we are yet to fully realize. Investment as compared to return is relatively low. Look at this clean industry as a key economic development driver. It's a great investment for New Mexico taxpayers."
She said the department has measured return on investment for every dollar spent. The conservative estimate is three-to-one at the tax base level, and at the spending level ROI is closer to 30-1. Jacobson said comparing folks who saw ads with those who didn't, showed that the ones who saw the ads were three times more likely to take a trip to the state.
"It is exciting," Jacobson said. "We have momentum growing, compared to Colorado and Arizona. We are doing the same four things—creating a strong brand, unifying and leading the industry, ramping up the rigor and running the department like a business, and inspiring instate travel."
She said she asked for $2.5 million and received $2 million for advertising using the New Mexico True campaign. "It focuses on the full state with photos from throughout the state. We have expanded our efforts to Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas and Houston, including creating a winter campaign. We are putting money into regional marketing, so they can tell their own stories. We increased that from $150,000 to $400,000. We are expanding from golf and skiing, with culinary advertising and for fairs and festivals. We are launching film tourism this month, working with Disney for the launch of the Lone Ranger film trails program. We are still behind our neighbors in expenditures. We spent $2.9 million; Arizona spends more than $6 million; and Colorado, $9 million."
She said the department is not fragmenting its advertising budget, but unifying it to make it easy for businesses to use the New Mexico True template to put their own stamp on the campaign, "without an extra dollar from you," she noted. Gallup is seeing growth up to 10 percent as a result of New Mexico True. I think we will have 28 communities speaking with one voice. We are doing True Tours, going out into the communities for three-day tours, with presentations and meetings with media. People are looking for real experiences. We have them everywhere."
Jacobson said the department is running like a business. New Mexico magazine's revenues are exceeding their costs. It won most improved magazine last year. Last month the magazine received the state/regional magazine of the year.
"We are concerned that the ROI study shows our tourism repeat rate is lower than our neighbors," Jacobson said. "We will do a deep dive on why and make sure we have the numbers to prove the tourism infrastructure assessment. We have to identify the key missing needs and put a plan in place, then identify funding. There may be capital requests."
"We want to inspire instate travel with New Mexico True road trips," she said. "We plan a morning show from a different location each month. We will have a New Mexico True stories promotion. Tell us your New Mexico True stories. It gets people traveling and creates incredible content for us. The top 10 selected will be online and in our Insiders Guide to New Mexico to show why people remember their New Mexico trips the most."
Williams said the New Mexico MainStreet Program has seen a 66 percent increase in its operations budget to $500,000. "We have four new emerging MainStreet projects in the Barelas area of Albuquerque, South Albuquerque, Gallup, and Hardin County is tying together three villages. We are opening applications for arts and cultural districts, with the announcement coming in August. There will probably be four to six this year. The ACD program began in Iowa and Maryland in 2007, and now it is in 13 states. Many are modeled on our statutes, with more than 500 across the country. The ACD is for communities dedicated to culture, artists and artisans. It is the second largest net generator for communities in tourism. They have larger discretionary funding to enhance their cultural investment to have a high quality authentic experience."
He said the ACD program became the MainStreet director's job. "It is also my responsibility to raise money for it. Without financial resources, we had to figure out how to draw in communities. We addressed the lack of resources and joined with Tourism, Historic Preservation, New Mexico Arts, the McCune Foundation and the New Mexico Museum Foundation."
He said the federal Scenic Byways program has been sequestered.
"The ACD is about the cultural economy and is bottom up economic development," Williams said. "We provide technical assistance. We reached out to Iowa for help because it is more rural than Maryland. The communities provide the assessments, then the cultural plan. Silver City and Taos are more artist related; Albuquerque is creative and film; and Los Alamos is creative science. The areas develop boundaries, do capacity building, and physical development, on top of their cultural plan. We like to see a Master Plan and a metropolitan redevelopment plan. We determine, after two years, whether each program is meeting its goals to build a cultural economy. It requires an annual report. We did a survey for consistency. One of the largest concerns is the quality of jobs and sustaining jobs. We are seeing a shift away from full-time jobs, and we don't track part-time jobs. We are working with groups that are struggling to track artisans and how to quantify them.
"Sustaining jobs is a concern," he continued. "Another problem is making reinvestments into cultural properties to stimulate rehabilitation and how to bring investments into historic buildings that don't meet current standards. We need adaptive reuse for theaters, railroads, WPA buildings and such. I do think we need to find incentives to redevelop important buildings. We are a property and land-rich state, but we are cash poor because we don't have incentives, private or public, to put them back into the market. It's a challenge. The ACD program created a public outlay fund out of the Department of Cultural Affairs, but it has not been capitalized. We would appreciate additional resources and will steward them carefully."
"We in Silver City are recipients of the hard work of the Department of Tourism and MainStreet," Dworin said. "I am an arts and cultural tourist; I am an outdoorsman; and I fell in love with the Gila River and Gila National Forest and brought money and spent my money in Silver City. As an artist, I visited the cultural district often. I was always promoting the 15-degree temperature difference from Tucson. One day, I took residence of a historic building, bought property, and I've been taking courses at the university. I am on my way to becoming a full-fledged New Mexican."
He said he has been four months in the job as Silver City Arts and Cultural District and Tourism director. He said the MainStreet Project has him looking inward to Silver City, while the tourism job has him looking outward to determine "where we are, what we make and what we do. Tourism teaches us how to connect people to people. Arts and cultural tourism is critical to the small, off-the-beaten-path of Silver City. It is part of the lifeblood of entrepreneurship."
The ACD has contracted with Kelsey Wagner to discover everything clay-oriented in the four-county area to promote clay-related commerce. "At the end of eight week, we have 75 distinct sites and growing, including galleries, archaeological sites, adobe making, and tile making. We have asked the sites to join the Southwest New Mexico Clay Trail. I thank New Mexico Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for funding."
Dworin talked about cultural economic development, which includes the many micro arts and cultural economies. He cited the Gila Wilderness, as the birthplace of Geromino, and said the ACD is working with the Red Paint Powwow to promote it, as well as with the Gila River Festival, ranching in the Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo, cycling of the Tour of the Gila, and others, such as the Cinco de Mayo, Tamal Fiesta, the Chicano Music Festival, Blues Festival, and, new this year, the Festival of the Written Word. "We have many pockets of different cultures. The New Mexico True co-op advertising is brilliant. The state puts in $1, we put in $1, and it doubles our advertising budget. New Mexico True makes Silver City recognizable. That is huge. We can access expertise and resources we wouldn't have.
"This year is the sixth year of Silver City as an ACD, and the benefits are well-branded and well thought out, he said. "With the other five ACDs we cross market and collaborate. State funding for the ACD website expands our message and reach."
Dworin said the Clay Festival this year has grown to a full week of events, beginning with a Poker Tournament that will feature special sets of chips to purchase. "The reach of the Clay Festival is national and international. Arts and cultural tourism is critical to Silver City. The partnerships with the state are critical."
Rep. Henry "Kiki" Saavedra chided those present for not mentioning the Albuquerque Zoo or the Balloon Fiesta.
Sen. Carroll Leavell said the roadside parks on I-40 west of Moriarty are closed. "I have discussed this with the Department of Transportation. It leaves a bad taste to travelers. In Hobbs, they went to the DOT about the port of entry. The Chamber of Commerce offered to renovate and build a visitor center, but the Motor Vehicle Division turned them down flat. The port of entry is usually closed."
Jacobson said the Tourism Department partners with nine visitor centers. The one in Gallup is closed. The other nine are open and staffed. "We worked with Hobbs and wanted to offer assistance."
Sen. Howie Morales said he feels comfortable with the numbers of three-to-one return on investment. "You didn't get the full amount of funding, and I know you are wanting to get into Chicago and San Diego markets."
Jacobson said San Diego is off the table this year, but the state will have a presence in Chicago. "We look at the ease of getting to New Mexico and the percent of those who match our target. We look at areas where there is growth, and we look at the media costs."
Morales asked if the department had looked at advertising on XM Radio.
"We look at radio, television, online, cabs, and we focus on where to deliver the digital vision," Jacobson said. "To date we are focusing on vision, but we have radio ads, with the song 'Feels Like Home.'"
Morales said his concern with the film industry in the state is that it uses taxes. "We lost our theater here, and 90 percent of the ticket price goes back to Hollywood."
"Our perspective is that it is not advocacy for film, but taking advantage of film," Jacobson said. "We support local firms leveraging films for tourism."
Morales asked how to promote repeat visits, such as the Balloon Festival, the Blues Festival, the Tour of the Gila.
"We look at it in a tiered way and evaluate sponsorships the same way as media buys," Jacobson said. "The next level is a co-op grant on individuals communities, where they do oral and written proposals. The New Mexico Sports Authority dollars impact the entire state. We also feature events in newsletters that receive 130,000 views and on the website, which receives more than 100,000 unique visitors a month."
Morales asked for assistance to small communities to expand New Mexico True.
Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez said he appreciated how Jacobson has made the Tourism Department grow. "We had a representative from Taiwan interested in attracting Chinese folks to New Mexico."J
acobson asked for the contact information and said she would send materials.
Sen. Mary Kay Papen said the Taiwanese might be interested in bringing balloon to the Balloon Fiesta.
Martinez concurred and said Taiwan hosts a balloon festival. He said he had worked with Williams on getting a new library in Bayard. "Bayard now has a modern, expanded library and computers."
Darr Shannon, Hidalgo County commissioner, said she wanted to inform the LFC that Hidalgo County is made up of poor people, pioneers, and hard-boned workers, with 80 percent employed by Freeport McMoRan. "We have cut our budget by several hundred thousand dollars. We have fewer people in the county. Why are there all these government workers? We've been creative in cutting. Our morale is high. We are aware of the cuts to payment-in-lieu of taxes, and we are ready for it. The road department cut a grader. We're not here to provide government jobs, but to provide services to residents. We have done a lot more with less, but we were able to give a 3 percent raise to our employees. You need to try harder. You have helped us, but we are willing to do what we can without our hands out."