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State tourism`s `Front-Line Troops` visit Northern New Mexico attractions

Tourist counselors from each of New Mexico Tourism Department`s (NMTD) nine Visitor Information Centers will travel throughout…

Tourist counselors from each of New Mexico Tourism Department`s (NMTD) nine Visitor Information Centers will travel throughout northeastern New Mexico May 2-6, 2005 to get a first-hand look at what helps make New Mexico a world-wide attraction.

The purpose of the trip is to acquaint the center staff with specific attractions to help them better serve the visiting public.

Since we are front line for New Mexico we try to get out there and do some hands-on training, said Jonni Valdez-Silva, north region coordinator for the visitor information centers. She works out of the Raton center. When we visit the area attractions, we can better tell visitors the best place to park, for example, whether the site is at the end of a 12-mile dirt road, if dogs are required to be on a leash – things like that.

The centers are very important to our overall mission of welcoming and educating our visitors, said Michael Cerletti, NMTD secretary. Last year they advised nearly one million visitors, and every indication is that they are only going to get busier in the future. New Mexico experienced a 3.8-percent increase in visitation from 2002 to 2003 – an estimated 442,000 additional visitors; and our preliminary figures from 2004 showed an increase of 2.6 percent over 2003. New Mexico is becoming more and more popular as a destination getaway.

May`s adventure includes overnight stops in Ojo Caliente, Taos, Raton and Las Vegas. Visits include Espanola, Red River, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire, Cimarron, the NRA Whittington Center, Capulin Volcano, Clayton, Pecos National Historic Park, San Ildelfonso Pueblo, Santa Clara Pueblo, Black Mesa Golf Course, National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Angel Fire Ski Resort, Taos Pueblo, Taos Plaza, Philmont Scout Ranch, St. James Hotel, Casa de Gavilan, Raton`s Historic Downtown District, El Portal Hotel, Sugarite Canyon State Park, Ekland Lodge in Clayton, Ft. Union, The Plaza Hotel, Montezuma`s Castle and others.

Gary Romero, program director, said the NMTD Visitor information Center program`s main objective is to get the traveling public to slow down while traveling through the state and visit the attractions in the areas near the centers or on their way through the state.

Most of the Visitor Information Centers are at key entry points around the state, with most of them situated on or near major state highways utilizing Department of Transportation Rest Areas, Property Control buildings and a partnership with one city. Centers include Anthony, Tucumcari, Glenrio, La Bajada, Chama, Lordsburg, Gallup, Raton, Texico and Santa Fe.