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Tourism and how we all need to act

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By Ralph Damiani

Gov. Richardson kicked off a state conference on tourism saying New Mexico needs to work with neighboring states to attract international visitors to the Southwest as well as increase its efforts to lure film crews to rural parts of the state.

True enough. But it seems that we need to do a lot more here to make this “business” pay off more.

Last year, tourism brought about 12 million visitors and an estimated $5.5 billion in revenue to the state. That money supports thousands of jobs and the associated tax revenue from tourism exceeded $351 million.

Big money and a lot of jobs.

Tourism – along with the oil and gas industry – makes up the backbone of New Mexico’s economy.

True enough. But are we really doing what we need to, do a better job of putting our best foot forward?

We have some instant sells, like Santa Fe’s reputation and Roswell’s aliens. But there is more here and we either do not do a good job of getting the word out or we don’t care to.

The annual conference will focus on working with the film industry and increasing ecotourism.

It also will take up such topics as what laws passed by the Legislature might mean for communities hoping to attract visitors and the challenge presented by climate change for an industry generally fueled by polluting modes of travel.

Richardson says he believes in cooperative advertising efforts with surrounding states rather than competing with them for visitors.

That makes sense. Playing off what we have in relationship to what our neighbors are selling is good business.

But we have to clean up our act. We have to have good roads, superior accommodations, fair taxes, ease of travel and a state wired better for cell and wireless communication.

You will not get folks back who can’t use their cell phones or connect to the world wide web. The state needs to make these kind of investments.

While Richardson continues to push filmmaking, this industry has not proven to provide much in the way of revenue for us. Especially in light of the tax incentives it gets to come here in the first place.

Yes, film production companies over the past six years have brought in more than $5 billion to New Mexico.

However, they got millions in incentives. This is a project that is not yet proven.

So while there is potential here, it will not just come. We need to invest and we need to be proactive in providing a clean, attractive and efficient state.

If we won’t make any effort to build it, they will not come.