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Are we there yet? As we slowly come out of the pandemic lockdown, getting back into the world by car and foot is an attractive option

Shorter vacation travel, particularly via car road trips, will become the norm for awhile.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is open for business. Sort of.

When it comes to throwing open the doors to the state in terms of tourism, however, things are still in a wait and see posture.

“We’re not in a position where we’re advocating or promoting tourism,” said Cody Johnson, spokesman for the New Mexico Tourism Department. “We’re not promoting any types of activities. However, we do support all the activities that have been determined safe for everyone to partake in based on the public health order.”

And that means a heavy dose of social distancing.

“Right now, we’re still in the position where we want to share information that keeps the public safe,” he said. “We’re committed to activities that are considered safe based on ability to keep people to a distance of six feet from each other and allow for things that are typically outdoors.”

Exploring the outdoors as a family, like this group headed up the La Luz Trail outside of Albuquerque, will become a bigger part of vacations. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Likewise, the way people travel and where they travel is undergoing a revolution as car trips, according Mower, a public relations and advertising firm.

“Road trips to domestic destinations will be increasingly popular post-COVID-19,” said Stephanie Quilligan, a Mower travel specialist. “It’s no surprise that travelers will be inclined to take to the highways rather than travel by air as they begin to venture out. Car travel gives a sense of control over one’s environment that flying cannot – no security lines, packing restrictions or strangers sharing a confined space. Road trips are more economical also and the idea of driving freely on the open road can be very liberating for those who have spent the past few months at home.”

Indeed, that is something that the state tourism department has been anticipating, Johnson said.

“What we’ve anticipated is people will start smaller for local and regional travel, primarily by car,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing that now.”

Likewise, Quilligan said, New Mexico is one of the states that fits the perfect profile for vacationers.

“Travelers are expected to seek outdoor and off-the-beaten-path adventures, with nature and wildlife prevailing over big-city attractions in the months ahead,” she said. “National parks, beach resorts, wildlife reserves and campsites will be appealing destinations for vacationers seeking to practice social distancing while benefiting from time in the open air.”

And as the pandemic worked its way across the world, it also made people take a hard look at the way they lived and played.

“People will aim to make healthier choices for themselves and seek travel experiences that both inspire and recharge,” Quilligan said. “For many, the pandemic brought home the importance of a healthy lifestyle and a strong immune system and they will want to bring that into every aspect of their lives, including travel.

Again, New Mexico is well positioned to fill that need.

“Travelers will seek out destinations and resorts with on-site wellness centers that offer meaningful programs and are staffed by professionals who will guide experiences that enhance their health and wellbeing in a significant way,” Quilligan said.

Spending more time camping is a healthy vacation alternative that will be popular in New Mexico.

While the Tourism Department is still rather hamstrung in terms of promoting New Mexico and the travel possibilities here, other organizations are stepping up to offer ways for businesses to actively attract visitors.

The New Mexico Hospitality Association is promoting a pledge – NM Safe Promise – that in part is designed to rebuild consumer confidence to restore the state’s economy.

And the New Mexico Society of Association Executives launched a program – NM Safe Certified – for businesses to become certified with COVID safe practices.

“NM Safe Certified is an industry-led initiative to train New Mexico businesses in the state’s COVID-Safe Practices to help ensure all of us – customers, employees, and families – remain safe as New Mexico reopens for business and recreation,” said Jason Espinosa, executive director of the New Mexico Society of Association Executives.

“NM Safe Certified wants businesses to know they are not alone in adjusting to a new environment, and customers to know they can feel confident about visiting their favorite businesses in a COVID-positive world,” he said. “NM Safe Certified awards special recognition to New Mexico businesses that have completed the NM Safe Certified training program.”

This will provide a guide for visitors as they begin traveling the state to find places with which they are comfortable doing business.

“NM Safe Certified provides businesses free on-demand virtual COVID-Safe practice trainings to help ensure all of us remain safe as the state reopens for business and recreation,” Espinosa said.

Businesses that complete the protocols will be recognized for their participation.

“New Mexicans and customers can be on the lookout for NM Safe Certified ‘seal’ when visiting local businesses, which means they have completed the NM Safe Certified program,” he said.

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