Tourism is an important part of the regional economy in the American Southwest. The California desert, for example, welcomed more than 3.8 million visitors to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve in 2015. These visitors contribute significantly to the region’s economy. This past year, visitors to the two local national parks and the national preserve added more than $225 million to the region’s economy, supporting over 3,100 jobs.
That’s why we’re delighted that earlier this year President Obama added to the attractions of the California Desert by designating the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments. Each new monument contains exceptional historical, ecological and geological features not to be missed. In Sand to Snow National Monument, for example, there are plants and animals not found anywhere else on our planet.
With these special places protected, local communities, chambers of commerce and businesses must plan how to market the new monuments to visitors. We have a golden opportunity to grow our economy by bringing visitors to the area who will eat in local restaurants, stay in at hotels and bed and breakfasts and buy and bring home tokens of their trips to the California desert.
To help this process, we should look to the example of other communities in the Southwest with recent monument designations. Since they have gone through this same process, we can learn from their experience.
In 2014, President Obama designated the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, encompassing 496,330 acres of public land in southern New Mexico. The monument is at the crossroads of New Mexico’s diverse history and culture, graced with natural wonders and incredible hunting and recreational opportunities. Following the designation of this national monument, the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce developed a marketing toolkit to help local communities promote the destination to visitors.
This toolkit, which included national monument promotional materials such as visitor brochures, posters, decals and marketing talking points, helped local businesses and governments get the most out of new tourism opportunities. Local businesses also seized the opportunity by offering monument-inspired beverages and desserts, selling iconic monument photography and running tours for visitors.
Since the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument designation, southern New Mexico has been recognized in a number of national publications, listed as one of the top 10 best places to visit in the United States by Lonely Planet and hosted a number of conferences — all because of a new national monument.
The Mojave Desert Land Trust, with assistance from the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, will be working to develop a similar marketing toolkit for the new California desert national monuments.
Let’s seize this opportunity to grow our economy, highlight local businesses and welcome visitors.
Danielle Segura is executive director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust and Carrie Hamblen is the CEO/presidentof the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. For more on this effort, email the Mojave Desert Land Trust: email@example.com.
The Press Enterprise
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