- Associated Press - Monday, June 29, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Pointing to New Mexico’s slick television and online promotional commercials, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday that close to 33 million people visited the state last year, making it a record-breaking year for tourism.

Martinez said that’s half a million more people who visited New Mexico than in 2013. She credited the state’s New Mexico True campaign for attracting more visitors. That campaign features the state’s famous outdoor locations and several New Mexico celebrities such as mixed-martial arts fighter Carlos Condit .

“By simply showing a true picture of our state, we’ve been able to attract more and more visitors, and they’re spending money in diners, art galleries, gift shops, restaurants, golf courses, ski basins, and various other small businesses in communities across New Mexico,” Martinez said at the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway in Albuquerque, where she made the latest numbers public.

Three years ago, the New Mexico Tourism Department unveiled the New Mexico True campaign, which promised tourists that they would encounter “adventures steeped in culture.” Officials said the campaign was aimed at painting New Mexico as a place for outdoor fun and cultural exploration.

One such online video from the campaign has the Republican governor taking a kayak ride in the rapids of the Rio Grande. On the video, she screams and paddles in the rapids to a soundtrack of the New Mexico True campaign.

Another video features young, fit hipsters in trunks and bikinis diving and dancing in slow motion into Santa Rosa’s 80-foot-deep Blue Hole - one of the world’s deepest artesian springs. The Miami night club-like atmosphere is reinforced with the song “Alive,” a popular tune by the Australian electronic music duo Empire of the Sun.

Other videos highlight the state’s many American Indian and Hispanic sites.

In 2014, officials say the New Mexico True campaign helped lead to an all-time high in marketable overnight trips, or vacations, with a 40.6 percent increase since 2010.

Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Latham said an increase in the advertising budget allowed the state to aggressively pursue those types of trips.

“Through the New Mexico True campaign, we’ve seen incredible growth in awareness, interest and visitation to the state,” Latham said. “The campaign highlights an incredible variety of outdoor adventures, cultural opportunities and culinary experiences that pique consumer interest, along with providing a unified brand message for the tourism industry.”

The increase comes as Albuquerque has seen a jump in tourism in recent years thanks to the AMC-TV hit shows “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” Businesses offer tours of popular scenes from the shows and sell show-related merchandise.


Follow Russell Contreras at https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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