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Attracting tourists with their heads in the clouds

Did you see those clouds this afternoon? Or yesterday’s? Or tomorrow’s?

Clouds in the sky, like these above the Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque in October 2017, can help attract tourists to New Mexico. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

There were at least one, two or maybe three of the 10 types of clouds unfolding in the mountains to the east or west.

Individually and collectively, those aggregations of water vapor are a rich, potential resource for summer tourism to New Mexico.

There are multiple groups of “cloud spotters” around the world, and innumerable individuals pausing to glance skyward with awe and unconscious appreciation. They are folks fascinated by the dynamics of the wet air especially prominent every summer as it roils above the Sangres, Sandia and Jemez ranges.

The Cloud Appreciation Society’s 46,000 members in 120 countries hold regular conventions, “Sky Gatherings,” in places like the English Isle of Lundy, Canada and Bolivia (info on these events is available at They exhibit their best pictures of rare formations (see

They hear presentations from meteorologists. And they spend money in hotels, restaurants and gift shops.

Properly promoted, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and even The Lightning Field in Quemado could attract some of those global travelers. Call it the “New Mexico TRUE Skies” tour. Consult a lunar calendar and maximize the journey by adding “Full Moon Over White Sands” visits. Don’t forget to run up some well-designed T-shirts and coffee mugs.

That promotional effort wouldn’t cost much.

Any hotels in the city or Santa Fe with a rooftop bar, or even an accessible roof with a clear view of the mountains? If so, mount four, all-weather video cameras on the roof, point them in the cardinal directions and share our skies with the world via a website cobbled together at a modest cost.

The website should allow viewers to easily forward especially great formation images and videos to friends and social media.

The installation and promotional creation could be financed with seed money from the city’s tourism office, and ads for Santa Fe events, restaurants, hotels, museums and tours.

Cost? $5,000 for first year, max, if you draw on some citizen volunteers. Probably half that in succeeding years.


Check out “Live with your head in the clouds: Gavin Pretor-Pinney at TEDGlobal 2013” at

Tom Johnson of Santa Fe is a veteran journalist who is coordinator of the “It’s the People’s Data,” which promotes the advantages of government agencies allowing free and easy access to public information.


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