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We could use more foreign visitors

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — Do you know that the U.S. government doesn’t have an agency to promote tourism from foreign nations? That’s a big deal for New Mexico where tourism is the state’s largest private employer.

New Mexico receives a big chunk of foreign tourists who want to see what the Wild West really looks like. They want to see Indians, Spanish churches, Billy the Kid Land, UFO sites, museums and galleries.

State Tourism Secretary Michael Cerletti says, “The United States is virtually the only country in the developed world without a national tourism office.”

But that is about to change. Congress has just passed a Travel Promotion Act. The New Mexico congressional delegation was active in supporting the legislation.

At one time, tourism was an important part of the U.S. Commerce Department. In 1977, New Mexico’s own Fabian Chavez was in charge of tourism as an assistant secretary of Commerce.

Chavez’s adventures in that office, including a visit with Fidel Castro, are recounted in his recent book, “Taking on Giants,” published by the University of New Mexico Press.


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