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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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N.M. Tourism Survey Shows Welcome Centers' Value

LAS CRUCES -- There's more to New Mexico than meets the eye. That's the message told to travelers at New Mexico's 10 welcome centers across the state, and early results from an ongoing survey indicate the message is working.

The survey begun last September shows many visitors to the Land of Enchantment have flexible schedules when they arrive for vacations, said Priscilla Bloomquist, a researcher with the Center for Hospitality and Tourism Studies at New Mexico State University.

"Seventy-five percent of the welcome center users responded that their plans were either moderately or very flexible. That's important because that means welcome centers have the opportunity to influence their tourists' travel plans throughout the state," she said.

Bloomquist conducts the study funded by the state tourism department. She said welcome centers are effective tools in encouraging visitors to stay longer and see sights they hadn't thought of seeing before coming to New Mexico -- sights away from the interstate highways.

Tourists complete one part of the survey on the spot, and mail back the other part after their vacation. Survey questions cover such information as the purpose of their visit, the number of nights they plan to stay in the state, specific towns they plan to visit and their hometown. "About 50 percent of those who returned the mailback survey said they actually visited places in New Mexico they otherwise would not have visited," Bloomquist said. "Another 21 percent indicated that they stayed longer, and that is very important in terms of the economic impact of tourism in the state."

Some findings reinforce information already known about tourists in New Mexico, Bloomquist said.

"For example, the majority of welcome center users are coming from Texas, California and Colorado. Some other findings include their average length of stay, about four nights, which is pretty close to the national average."

Every bit of information from the survey can be helpful to state and community planners, she said.

"Tourism is big business in New Mexico," she said. "We needed to know more about tourists for marketing purposes. This survey creates a profile of our tourists and tells us what influences welcome centers have on them."

More than 700,000 tourists visit the state's welcome centers each year. Overall, tourism generates more than $2.5 billion dollars for the state's economy, Bloomquist added.