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Annual REDTT Conference Highlights Agricultural Tourism

ALBUQUERQUE - Exploring agricultural tourism opportunities in New Mexico is the central focus of this year's Rural Economic Development Through Tourism (REDTT) conference April 25-26 in Deming.

Ramiro Quezada Lujan, right, portrays Pancho Villa in a reeneactment of Villa's 1916 raid on Columbus. Participants in the sixth annual Rural Economic Development Through Tourism (REDTT) conference -- to be held in Deming on April 25-26 -- will visit Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus during REDTT's familiarization tours in Luna County. (04/05/2005) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J Victor Espinoza)

Hundreds of tourism professionals, businesspeople and local officials from around the state are expected to attend the sixth annual conference of the REDTT program, run by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

"We chose agritourism because it's a great way for farmers, ranchers and other rural residents to generate additional sources of income," said Dora Dominguez, REDTT director. "Agritourism includes everything from dude ranches to fee hunting, wildlife safaris and setting up on-farm bed and breakfasts that offer scenic country views."

The conference will also provide updates on trends in the tourism industry and new resources and programs that tourism professionals can tap into, Dominguez said. "It's a great opportunity for people from around the state to network and share ideas."

The REDTT program, which began in 1992, aims to boost economic development in rural areas by promoting local tourist attractions. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, REDTT offers technical assistance, training and grants to 17 New Mexico counties to encourage tourism in those areas.

Since 1992, the program has awarded more than $375,000 to local tourism councils in member counties to identify, develop and market tourism attractions.

"Rural areas have many attractions, including beautiful countryside, outdoor sports, and historic and cultural sites," Dominguez said. "By using these assets to promote tourism, REDTT contributes to rural economic development."

Jane Eckert, an agritourism and marketing consultant from Illinois, is this year's keynote speaker. Eckert will discuss growth in on-farm tourism ventures throughout the United States, analyze the keys to creating successful agritourism endeavors and conduct detailed workshops on how to identify, set up and market agritourism operations, Dominguez said.

Roger Brooks, co-author of "The 25 Immutable Rules of Successful Tourism," will discuss cardinal rules for attracting visitors to rural communities, such as clearly visible road signs, clean restrooms and visitor centers, Dominguez said.

Tourism Secretary Mike Cerletti will give a statistical overview of the state's tourism industry and explain government initiatives to grow tourism in New Mexico.

Other workshops will cover emergency preparedness at festivals and events, amenities people look for at RV parks, government assistance programs, event planning, guided hunting tours, state parks in New Mexico, the MainStreet USA program, event liability issues and partnering with schools to host agritourism field trips.

The conference costs $50 for county REDTT council participants and members of NMSU's Small Farm Task Force, which is co-sponsoring the event. It's $80 for residents of REDTT counties and $110 for all others.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. on April 25 at the Mimbres Valley Special Events Center, 2300 East Pine. A welcome address will kick-off the conference at 11:30 a.m., followed by three Luna County familiarization tours: a walk through Historic Deming; a bus tour of Rock Hound State Park, Joseph's Lite Cookies Factory and St. Clair Vineyard and Wine Tasting Room; and a visit to Pancho Villa State Park, the town of Columbus and the Mexican border town of Palomas. A trade show and the REDTT awards banquet will be held that evening.

Workshops run from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on April 26. The conference concludes with a luncheon at 12:45 p.m.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call REDTT at (505) 646-5994, or visit REDTT's World Wide Web site at www.redtt.org.