FARMINGTON — A recent study concluded that New Mexico is the 14th best state for a road trip. For local communities, the challenge becomes drawing those travelers to the Four Corners area.
"I've seen more and more people from New Mexico taking short day trips," said Wilann Thomas, president of the Aztec Chamber of Commerce.
The study was released by Wallethub.com, a social media network for personal finance. It used 21 different metrics that included gas prices, weather, safety, number of scenic highways and other relatable topics.
"WalletHub compared each of the 50 states to determine which state offers the most enjoyment and the least damage to one's wallet," a press release with the study stated.
The study provides more information that local communities can use to draw tourists and state residents to the Four Corners area. Tourists spent an estimated $5.9 billion in New Mexico last year, and San Juan County communities are making plans to ensure those people — and state residents, too — are aware of the local attractions.
"We do like to target people within New Mexico who are looking for a weekend getaway," Thomas said in a phone interview.
One of the challenges to drawing people to the Four Corners area is reaching them.
Thomas said Aztec uses various methods to reach out to travelers. They use ads in more traditional mediums like magazines and radio, while also buying ads at different travel websites. The city's tourism office also plans to launch a smart phone app and a mobile website.
And most recently, the city commissioners agreed to spend $25,000 for the production of a one-minute video to join the state's New Mexico True ad campaign.
Thomas said she uses different methods to keep track of whether the ads are working.
For example, with printed magazine ads the city receives mailings indicating the amount of interest their ad garnished. She keeps track of the number of visits on the website designed for tourists and finally, she has a sign-in book at the visitor's center, which she says has more signatures than last year.
As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 3,000 visitors stopped in and signed the book, which is more than half of last year's total of 4,978 visitors who signed in.
"It's up, it's really up," she said, noting that last year the number of visitors increased by 35 percent.
The website has about 5,000 views from the middle of May through the middle of June, she added.
The website is full of information on places people can visit in Aztec, from arch formations outside of town, to the Aztec Ruins and historical buildings.
"We are working really hard to be creative," she said.
Bloomfield uses many of the same methods Aztec uses to draw visitors which includes answering phones.
"I had somebody call from Texas just this morning," said Lynne Raner, secretary of Bloomfield's Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
She was answering phones Wednesday afternoon.
"We're the gateway to a variety of attractions," she said.
The chamber of commerce uses their website to let people know about Salmon Ruins, which is in Bloomfield, and then notify people about other locations like Chaco Cultural Historical Park.
But she said she didn't know how the chamber was keeping track of visitors other than if they have stopped into the visitors center.
She says she still invites people to the area.
"You can spend a few days here and go do something different everyday," she said.
Both Thomas and Raner said they didn't know what their cities budgeted for advertising.
Tonya Stinson, executive director for the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the organization uses magazines, radio, Internet and social media ads to bring interested travelers to Farmington.
In an email, she stated Farmington wasn't well-known within the state, so the bureau focused on other areas of the state for part of its ad campaign by running radio ads in southern New Mexico and west Texas.
"We didn't feel Farmington had enough visibility or recognition with (New Mexico) residents," she wrote, also including Colorado.
She said the bureau focused its advertising in those areas last year and expects to continue doing the same this year.
The bureau's website had nearly 40 percent more viewers with visits from Colorado and Texas increasing by at least 24 percent.
As part of this year's effort to bring visibility to Farmington, the bureau has also joined the New Mexico True ad campaign, the state effort to increase tourism.
"The Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau does position and market Farmington (as) the best place to explore the Four Corners. We encourage visitors to explore and experience all that Farmington has to offer and then venture out in day trips in every direction," Stinson said.
But with all the methods of reaching out to people and telling them about the attractions in the area, Thomas said simple word or mouth still works if they've had a good experience.
"We hope they share that with their friends and family when they go back to their country or state because word of mouth is always the best advertisement," she said.Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638. and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.