Lodgers notice uptick over summer

By Steve Hansen
Staff writer
Tucumcari motel owners and managers agree this summer’s tourist season has been busier than it was this past year or in other recent years.

They credit lower gasoline prices for the uptick in traveling.

QCS photo: Steve Hansen John and Julie O’Shaughnessy of Austin, Texas, pause for a family portrait with their children, Johnny and Jackie, outside their camper Friday, as they leave the Historic Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari.

QCS photo: Steve Hansen
John and Julie O’Shaughnessy of Austin, Texas, pause for a family portrait with their children, Johnny and Jackie, outside their camper Friday, as they leave the Historic Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari.

Most noted increased tourist travel.  Many of their guests, they say, were traveling from northern Midwestern homes to vacation destinations in the Southwest, mostly the Grand Canyon.

Tourists from Europe, while a major portion of their business, may have been less common this year, some hoteliers said.

“We had more U.S. tourists, but not as many Europeans,” said Kathy Fulton, owner of the Historic Route 66 Motel.

David Brenner, owner of the Roadrunner Lodge on Route 66, said the Roadrunner had more European guests this year, but said since the motel is in only its second year, the overall increase in business at the Roadrunner might be due to rapid early growth common in new businesses.

Brenner tracks his guests’ homes on a map, and noted that the Roadrunner had hosted many French and British visitors, but that fewer British visitors had come this year.

One guest, he noted, came from Kyrgystan, a central Asian nation close to Afghanistan and bordering on China.

Joan Wigley, a general manager intern at the Rodeway Inn, said the Rodeway has been busier this year, too.
“We’ve been full a number of times and had to turn people away,” she said

While foreign visitors are common, she said, she has noted many large families traveling together this year.
Sally Maestes, general manager of the Quality Inn, just said business this summer has been “great. Definitely better than last year.”

“And last year wasn’t bad,” she added.

Quality Inn guests, she said, have included many foreigners, Route 66 tourists and “people from the upper Midwest going to Arizona or Las Vegas.”

A general belief in the travel industry is that tourism declines in an election year.

Richard Talley, owner of the Motel Safari, said that is likely true, although he said he has not compared this year’s business to last year’s.

Brenner of the Roadrunner Lodge also mentioned the apparent election year jinx.

Travel Weekly, a travel industry magazine, noted the jury is out on the election-year slump theory.

“Industry leaders voiced a broad lack of consensus on the topic in interviews this month,”the magazine noted in an Aug. 6 article. “Depending on whom you ask, the notion of a travel slump in presidential election years is either a challenging reality or a long-standing industry myth.”

Election effect or not, Tucumcari’s apparent banner year seems to reflect New Mexico tourism’s results.

“We seem to be headed for a fourth consecutive year of setting records,” Heather Briganti, communications director for the Department of Tourism, said.

While she was unable to provide numbers, she said that state parks’ visitation numbers increased this year.

She credited lower gasoline prices for bringing in more tourists; Briganti also gave credit to the current “New Mexico True” advertising campaign for an increase in visitors who arrive by air.

The current advertising campaign is “stronger and more targeted” than previous efforts have been, she said.

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