Your vacation snapshots and travel anecdotes are officially in demand.
In fact, they could be worth $5,000.
The New Mexico Tourism Department on Monday launched “New Mexico True Stories,” a 14-week contest offering more than $10,000 in cash and prizes to travelers who share photographs, memories and tips from their New Mexico trips.
Gov. Susana Martinez and Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson announced the summer promotion during the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism at Hotel Albuquerque.
“We want to hear about those really rich, amazing experiences people have around the state,” Jacobson told reporters after the news conference. “We want to hear about that restaurant that you love that’s off the beaten track that people maybe don’t know about. … We want to hear about how you woke up one morning early and went to the Gallup Red Rock Balloon Rally and your life has never been the same since seeing balloons against the red rock backdrop.”
The state will spend approximately $400,000 on advertising that encourages New Mexicans to explore their own state and then relate their experiences online at www.newmexico.org.
Participants are asked to upload 6-12 photos from their trip and provide additional details such as the best meal they ate along the way or the most beautiful thing they saw.
Popular online voting will determine 12 weekly winners, and each gets a $450 gas card. Entries are accepted through Aug. 4.
A total of 20 finalists – the top 10 vote-getters and 10 picked by a panel – will then vie for the $5,000 cash prize.
The 20 finalists will also have their stories included in the “Ultimate New Mexico Insiders Guide,” part of the state’s 2014 vacation guide.
Jacobson said keeping more of New Mexicans’ travel dollars at home is one of the contest’s main objectives. Currently, locals account for 37 percent of the state’s overnight visitors.
“We know, unfortunately, that New Mexicans are more likely to travel out of state than say, folks from Colorado are to leave Colorado,” she said. “It’s an area we actually have to work on.”
The promotion builds off the state’s “New Mexico True” advertising campaign launched last spring, one that highlights the state’s cultural gems and adventure opportunities.
Gov. Martinez said “New Mexico True Stories” allows locals to share first-hand accounts of those experiences.
“All over the state there are beautiful places to go to and do activities there – not just look at pretty things but actually be involved in activities,” Martinez told reporters.
Jacobson said locals’ reporting and insider tips are valued by future visitors from out of state.
This “builds off of popularity of things like TripAdvisor and Yelp,” she said. “We know that people – more than hearing from us (in the tourism department) – they want to hear from other, normal people.”
In addition to the ad buys, the state spent $180,000 on the campaign’s production costs.
Corporate sponsor Advanced Presentation Systems is covering the $5,000 grand prize, while the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, city of Gallup and Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau are sponsoring the gas cards.