Jan. 24—New Mexico will become the first U.S. state to participate in a tourism exchange, a business-to-business platform that connects suppliers and distributors in the travel industry, the New Mexico Tourism Department announced Tuesday.
Partnering with Tourism Exchange USA, New Mexico hotels, tour groups, and other tourism businesses will soon be connected with international travel booking companies and agents with the goal of bringing travelers from around the world to the state.
"When people in China, Germany, Italy (etc.), have travel agents ... trying to put together itineraries and do international travel, they will find your business," said Tourism Cabinet Secretary Jen Schroer at a Tuesday meeting with business leaders from across the state.
The program is in the earliest phases of rollout. Approximately 150 representatives from the tourism sector are testing different models of the program and giving feedback to NMTD. By late spring, the program is expected to be available to more businesses. It's uncertain if or how many businesses will have to pay to opt into the program.
The startup cost for the department is $125,000, with an additional monthly fee of $10,000 for maintenance and technical support.
Last May, NMTD put out a request for proposal for a tourism exchange program, and received three bids. Tourism Exchange, which ultimately won the partnership, originally launched in Australia in 2008 and now has programs in Great Britain and Japan.
"Before, for the Tourism Department to have that kind of exposure internationally — we couldn't afford it," Schroer said. "It was just out of our reach."
Schroer said the majority of hotels in the state are independently operated, without the negotiation leverage of larger hotel chains. That means they are shackled into high fees from travel booking companies. Under the new program, however, rates for services like Expedia will be globally negotiated. New Mexico businesses participating in the tourism exchange will pay the same service rates as those in Tourism Exchange Australia, Tourism Exchange Great Britain, and Tourism Exchange Japan.
"It's bringing power back to small businesses," Schroer said.