LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas Village Council held a public hearing and then approved a strategic tourism plan, which lays the foundation for a thriving tourism sector and outdoor recreation industry.
There are many attractions in Valencia County, and village officials hopes to collaborate with other municipalities in the county to build a tourism network for visitors and residents alike.
A few years ago, when the village embarked on its branding strategy, “Small Community, Big Possibilities,” with James Glover of The Idea Group, now called Once A Day Marketing, it was recommended that the village embark on a couple of separate phases for economic development.
The first phase was retail and industrial jobs recruitment, and the last phase is tourism, said Christina Ainsworth, the village’s community development director.
“This is the phase that we’re on where we developed that plan,” Ainsworth said. “The next step will be the implementation where we’ll be working with local businesses and services — regionally as well, including, I would say county-wide to help draw tourism to the area.”
Implementation of the plan has not yet started, but Ainsworth said they will recruit brand ambassadors when they begin that phase.
“Anyone can be an ambassador, you just have to embrace the brand and help with providing a great experience to our visitors,” she said.
The tourism brand promise is, “Los Lunas is the personable place that shares memorable and ‘soul-feeding’ adventures that visitors simply love.”
Tourists might come for the Tomé Hill pilgrimage, for example, and stay to visit the Tomé Art Gallery, the Belen Harvey House Museum and the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, as well as a walk at the River Park or hike up El Cerro de Los Lunas.
“There’s a lot of facilities and places where people might want to visit,” Ainsworth said. “People who come here are not necessarily just going to want to spend time in the village, but they’ll want to see everything else that is accessible.”
The plan, along with a brand for Los Lunas tourism, “Los Lunas — The Road Less Traveled,” was developed with the belief that developing the tourism industry will enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors as well as compliment economic development already taking place.
“A lot of people just drive through here, but we want people to understand that there’s adventure and things to see here as well,” Ainsworth said.
The objectives of the plan include creating a road map brochure so visitors can follow site to site. The aim is also to attract new businesses to support the emerging tourism industry and attract new visitors, extend their stays, as well as engage Los Lunas businesses and residents with information and tools to become brand ambassadors.
It also might include smaller projects, such as putting the Route 66 logo on the roadway and creating some signage that would show people where the old Route 66 properties were and those that still exist, Ainsworth said.
The village’s plan for a Route 66 Museum and Visitors Center, to be located on land purchased west of the Luna Mansion, is important to tourism.
“It would be another segment of our economy that we can grow,” Ainsworth said. “Not just for the visitor experience but also for creating more quality of life in the village for our residents.”
Another strategic priority includes attracting the tourism infrastructure to deliver a first-class tourism experience.
While the village doesn’t have everything that it wants, there are things it can start with, Ainsworth said.
“We do have a lot of drive-through tourism. People stop here and they’re stopping more and more because we have a variety of restaurants that have come in,” she said.
People stop for gas, to eat and might explore a little bit, but what village officials ultimately want is overnight stays and it doesn’t necessarily have those facilities yet.
Creating the visual experience and curb appeal is underway with phase two of the interstate beautification project expected to begin in September, and extending landscaping, pedestrian footpaths and bicycle trails along the Rail Runner Express tracks are also scheduled.
The village is partnering with New Mexico True, the over-arching state tourism brand, and has the opportunity to collaborate with the state organization on many strategic tourism initiatives that will enable the village to maximize its branding reach and better leverage available financial resources.
The next step is to create the graphic materials, such as marketing materials and brochures.
“I’m real happy with this project,” said Councilor Chris Ortiz. “This is (part of) why I ran and wanted to be on council is the whole tourism and trying to get more things for people to do.”
The Los Lunas Strategic Tourism Plan is available to view on the website at loslunasnm.gov.