Participants in a tourism listening session earlier this month discuss ideas and observations at the Hilton Garden Inn.
(Gary Herron/ Rio Rancho Observer)

New Mexico Tourism Department wants to do even better than it has in recent years and expand visits to the state.

To that end, a 10-year plan — dubbed the Destination Development Roadmap — is being created. Soon, the department will have a comprehensive statewide strategic plan for destination development, capacity-building, funding mechanisms and resource allocation.

The road map should be completed in February and released to the public in March.

On Sept. 18, a “listening session” for the state’s central region, which includes Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, was held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rio Rancho, drawing about five-dozen attendees, including a reporter from the Rio Rancho Observer. Earlier that week, listening sessions had also been held in Angel Fire and Las Vegas.

The team of “listeners” traveled to the southwest, southeast and northwest corners of the state in recent months, inventorying tourism assets by hosting focused listening sessions. The Coraggio Group of Portland, Ore., conducted the listening sessions at a cost of $180,365.

According to its website, the Coraggio Group will “help our clients make their most important strategic decisions and then turn those decisions into action.” The state tourism department said it received three proposals — all from out-of-state firms — for the service.

The New Mexico Tourism Department, through the Coraggio Group, gathered private and public stakeholders to catalog tourism and outdoor recreation assets, identify potential growth barriers and perform a statewide “gap analysis” of infrastructure and tourism assets.

Tourism is among the state’s top industries. At the listening session, Coraggio Group representatives said New Mexico had 36 million visitors last year, with 45 percent spending at least one night, with an average of 3.2 nights.

Thus the state was described as more of a “road-trip market” than a lengthy destination. And 33 percent of the state’s visitors were here on business, 57 percent for leisure and 10 percent for visiting family members.

Attendees at the Hilton Garden Inn, most with a vested interest in attracting more visitors to their locations, were divided into groups of five or six and asked to write down their ideas and comments on large sheets. Topics — some looking at the current day as well as 10 years from now — included experiences, key assets, policies, infrastructure, current and future visitors, and “bold moves.”

After a break for lunch, the next couple hours were spent completing the pages that followed the first page — the session began at 11 a.m. — and then feedback for the Coraggio folks. It became apparent many of the groups were on the same page, listing early closures at eateries and night- life venues, the distance between attractions and the condition of the roads and highways as barriers.