Taos Takes On Tourism

Summer 2017 in Taos saw a shift in the way the town marketed itself to the outside world.

Over the past five years or so, we’ve seen an increasingly progressive approach to tourism, especially regarding music events in the park, the plaza and even on the mesa!

In years past, during many a Taos Solar Festival (the precursor to the park events), Dawn Richardson and her partner Dan Sherman showed what a draw music could be to Taos – their collaborations  with the Town in bringing the Kongos to Taos Plaza, and with AEG on the Mumford and Son’s show in 2013, signaled the end of the Solar Fest (after 15 years) and heralded the inauguration of the “Town as Promotor.”

The day before the Dwight Yoakam show, I’d gone by the park as the crews were setting up the stage lighting and vendors arrived to set up their tents. Mitch Miller was already there, going over everything that needed to be done in those last hours before show time. He was gracious and told me he expected around 7,500 people when I asked. I wondered where they’d all come from as I drove away.

“We came up from Santa Fe.” A couple seated in the front row told me. “We had heard about these concerts in the park but this is our first time,”

They were staying at the El Monte Sagrado Resort on Kit Carson Road. Others I spoke to were at Bed and Breakfast Inns, hotels and motels, Airbnb’s, and still others were camping out. Only a few who had gotten into the park early, were locals. Most were from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Albuquerque.

Several told me they visited Museums, saw a few galleries and ate and drank at local bars and restaurants during their weekend stay. Some were there for the concert alone. A few had come to see the Wallflowers the night prior, at the Mesa Brewing Mothership.

The crowd was all over the demographic map; young, middle-aged and in between. The music was no doubt a draw, but so was Taos itself.

With new industries, savvy local entrepreneurs, and old ones catching fire – Mike Reynolds’ Earth Ships are being built all over the world –  and start-ups of different varieties, a night club in Arroyo Seco (Parse), new businesses like The Cellar opening, and more and more millennials visiting from all over, prove that Taos is on the verge of a cultural renaissance.

A  new generation of artists plus the very hip merger of art and technology – The Paseo – are attracting and encouraging more young people to explore the area.

Taos Ski Valley’s  multi-million dollar facelift and inclusion of snowboarders hasn’t hurt either; in the past two years, Taos has led the state with record-breaking numbers based on state lodgers tax. That’s with fewer hotel rooms than we have had in a decade.

Our current Marketing Director, Ana Karina Armijo and her team of go-getters (including Alyson Hyder of Taos.org, who was voted New Mexico Tourism Professional of the Year in 2016), are working overtime to encourage visitors to explore beyond the conventional attractions and tired South Western motifs. Indie movers and shakers like Rita O’Connell of Live Taos have changed the face of the town while companies like Heritage Inspirations offer out of the box tours of the area to adventurous souls willing to take paths less traveled.

Clearly the Town (and County) are doing something right, and for each complaint, I hear a compliment. There’ll always be naysayers when it comes to change, but change is the only thing that is ever certain, and like the singer sang, all those years ago, the times they are a’changing.

For more about Taos, please visit the official site for the town, linked below this post.

taos.org

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