After years of fighting a streak of bad luck, Taos’ business community has seen a couple rays of sunshine recently.

First, Pres. Barack Obama signed a proclamation March 25 establishing the Río Grande del Norte National Monument — a major act that is estimated to draw more visitors and create millions in new revenue. On the same day, Taos Solar Music Fest announced that red-hot British band Mumford and Sons would be playing a June 6 show in Kit Carson Park in front of 8,000 people.

The back-to-back shots in the arm appear to have rejuvenated those in the local tourism industry who’ve been battling a tough economy and lingering drought for years. Local leaders say the serendipitous announcements are an “opportunity” that can’t be squandered.

“Is this a kickstarter that could get things moving in the right direction? Absolutely,” says Jamie Tedesco, marketing director for The Taos Inn and director of the Taos chapter of the New Mexico Green Chamber.

By several metrics, tourism in Taos continues to languish. Lodgers tax (an indicator of hotel stays) is flat in town and well below pre-recession numbers, while gross receipts taxes (which represents overall economic activity) are still struggling to gain traction.

To turn things around, organizations like the Taos Tourism Council, the Taos Lodgers Tax Board and the Taos Arts and Cultural District have been busily brainstorming ways to capture the momentum. Most are asking the same question: How can we best use these events as a springboard to convince people to come back to Taos and stay longer?

Part of the answer is ensuring that the thousands of visitors coming to the Mumford and Sons concert have a good experience. That means giving them a lot to do while they’re here. It also means adequate parking, convenient food and water, and plenty of Porta Potties.

Taos Solar Fest organizer Dawn Richardson says the biggest crowd the event has handled until now was 7,000 people and that was over the course of an entire day. To funnel 8,000 people in and out of the park in a single evening is going to require some strategic planning.

“We are very aware that this is an opportunity to succeed, but it’s also an opportunity to fail,” says Taos Town Manager Oscar Rodríguez. As such, the town is working with event organizers to iron out things like how to bus people to and from parking lots to the concert grounds.

In addition, Rodríguez says the town is encouraging businesses to think outside the box. “This could be a little bit of a change in the way we do business,” Rodríguez says. He’s encouraging restaurants to set up temporary vending booths near the park and asking businesses to stay open later to accommodate the crowds. The gate to the park isn’t scheduled to open until 6 p.m., and the concert could go as late as 11:30 p.m.

There is also a suggestion that the town would close Civic Plaza Drive on the night of the show and open the convention center for additional vendors and to have extra bathrooms available.

Cindy Spray with the Taos Arts and Cultural District says a group of downtown merchants will be meeting Friday (May 3) morning at the Harwood Museum to talk about ways businesses can drum up excitement and activity downtown before the concert begins.

“What I don’t want is for business owners to be hiding in their shops ruing the tons of people who are in town,” Spray said. “This should be fun, and we should be doing everything we can to make it fun.”

Joanie Griffin’s marketing firm Griffin and Associates is contracted with the town to do promotion and advertising. Griffin says email blasts will be going to people on her mailing list to let them know what’s going on in Taos before and after the concert. The idea is to convince visitors to stay for more than just the Thursday show.

With the concert already sold out, restaurants are staffing-up to handle the flood of customers, and some hotels are already reporting they’ve got no rooms for the night. In the short term, everyone agrees that the concert is going to bring a much-needed boost at the start of summer tourist season. The trick is making sure the impact lasts.

“No matter what happens, we’re going to make money,” Griffin says. “But people can either walk away saying, ‘We gotta come back,’ or ‘Taos sucks.’ We want them to come back.”

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mroberts
mroberts

Hi friends at Taos News. As a Brit its great that Taos is showcasing a British Band and that it is causing such a creative fuss in Taos. My feelings on this and they are not meant as putdown criticisms is that for one thing it would be great to actually cater to the 'young' music loving crowd rather than drum up a lot of pressure on them so that you can make as much money out of them as possible by putting all the food outlets right under their noses so that they are pressurized all the time they are in Taos. Decent priced overnight accommodation would also be great. This does not exist in Taos. Most 'Tourist destinations' have moderately and cheaply priced accommodation for travellers and the back packing crowd and for hikers and campers, in Taos the accommodation is aimed at rich Texans mainly, with very expensive and fussy B&B's when the 'B&B' itself which I think originated out of the UK and in Europe was for a quest to stay in a spare family room. Sometimes even, a family member would vacate their room in order to allow a guest accommodation and the family would make a few pence. The B&B's in Taos bear no resemblance to this economic way to help travellers and low income'ish families. It became dominated by big business, now with huge overheads making it difficult for anyone to even offer cheap priced accommodation. Just because people are not rich does not mean they don't have money to spend. It sounds almost in your article that a whole crowd of 'sharks' will jump on the music fans to try and squeeze every drop out of them. Wouldn't it perhaps be a positive move to orientate towards providing their needs first? It would be great if there were more decent Hostal accommodation or Guest Houses that were clean, inexpensive and so on. This would be a move to attracting more people to Taos. Food is expensive, rooms, hotels, motels, B&B's are expensive. This will put off the middle range of visitor to Taos such as people who hike, camp, bike, bring their kids for an outdoor experience, people who want to climb Wheeler, people who aren't rich but want a holiday in a beautiful place. I think, personally, that Taos has been geared up to the 'High End' resort market for too long and these people are simply not coming to Taos anymore. Change needs to happen on some kind of level rather than squeezing harder don't you think. Thanks and Buena Suerte. I haven't got a ticket but I'm going to get as close as possible. Hope it goes screamingly well!!

Sarah_V
Sarah_V

This upcoming concert is critically important to everyone. Most of the people attending the concert aren't from here. For a great many, this is going to be their first trip to Taos. We have to make sure they aren't met with the usual indifference or surly attitudes. We need to make these people WANT to come back to Taos.