Selling Santa Fe: A Chat with the City’s New Convention and Visitors Bureau Director

" 'I love the city and am ready to promote Santa Fe as an amazing destination for future groups and meetings' "

Date September 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Author Greta Chapin McGill

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Business Community Nonprofit

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The Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomes Jim Luttjohann to the position of Executive Director. Personable and engaging, he exhibits a passion for the beauty of the landscape in and around Santa fe and for the people of the City Different who depend on the business of tourism and groups and meetings as a viable industry. 

A graduate of Pepperdine University, Luttjohann headed up the Ventura California Visitors and Convention Bureau, starting as a board member and serving as executive director from 2004 to 2012. The former owner of a small tourist-based business, he brings a grassroots attitude to a position where the understanding of blending ground level needs, governmental regulation and community concerns is critical to the success of the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Completing his first month on the job, SantaFe.com snagged a few moments in his hectic morning schedule for a quick discussion of his vision and opinions on Santa Fe and his new position

SFDC:  Firstly, let me welcome you to Santa Fe and wish you all the best in a challenging position. What would you say is the biggest misconception about Santa Fe?

LUTTJOHANN:  Oddly enough...it’s the fact that Santa Fe is in a high desert climate. People hear the word desert and they immediately think of someplace hot, sandy, and consistently dry. When my partner and I told friends we were moving here, they had no idea of the beauty of the landscape of the area. I want first-time visitors to be well aware of the amazing colors and peaceful surroundings I have found in Santa Fe.  There are no issues with weather in my opinion. I cannot think of a more pleasant atmosphere for a great time than Santa Fe.

SFDC: Where are the majority of  visitors to Santa Fe coming from as you take charge of the Bureau?

LUTTJOHANN: Over and above groups and meetings, our base of visitors comes from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona. These states give us our weekend getaway business.  We also pull a lot from markets in California.

SFDC: That seems a bit limited. Does the bureau plan to reach out beyond these traditional markets?

LUTTJOHANN: We have a great marketing staff headed by Chris Madden, director of marketing. She brings a wealth of personal contacts from the East Coast, Chicago, New York and other markets. We are committed to reaching these “fly markets” as we call them. Our marketing staff builds on relationships with meeting planners in these newer markets. We are developing incentives for bookings of over 300 room nights.

SFDC:  What kind of incentives are you planning to offer to these larger groups?

LUTTJOHANN:  Some of our ideas for incentives include flamenco dance lessons, tequila education and tastings, stargazing, art lessons and possible partnerships outside the city to attractions in Albuquerque, northern New Mexico and Buffalo Thunder. We are in active planning with all our hotels and arts commissions both performance and visual. Canyon Road merchants are also connections we are going to be working with. We target print and online publications in new venues to attract new groups and meetings. Santa Fe can accommodate larger more diverse meetings. We have over 5,000 rooms citywide including B&B’s and traditional hotels. Filling those rooms translates into a real boost for our economy. I am committed to working with all city advisory boards to push tourism; our number one industry.

SFDC: What is the largest size group Santa Fe could accommodate? For example could a group the size of a political convention be able to consider Santa Fe?

LUTTJOHANN:  Because of size constraints and security issues a meeting of that size would not be suitable for Santa Fe at this time. Travelers to Santa Fe generally come through Albuquerque and those flight issues have to be considered for an event of that size. However, we are geographically a good fit for many larger groups.  The Convention and Visitors Bureau’s physical plant is state of the art, with a sizable floor for vendors and breakout rooms for meetings. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is wide open to bringing diverse groups here to Santa Fe.  We now have a small contract for a statewide NAACP meeting, we are hosting the International Mountain Biking Association and targeting other international groups and meetings. We are working closely with Destination Marketing Association International to develop international markets.

SFDC: The buzz around town these days has to do with diminishing nightlife in Santa Fe. Do you have anything to add to this discussion?

LUTTJOHANN: I have heard the sounds. I attended the OTAB [Occupancy Tax Advisory Board] meeting and was really surprised at the attendance, approximately 150 musicians turned out to voice their opinions. I do think attracting a younger tourist to Santa Fe is an idea with merit and it is a new area of concentration for us. My business in Ventura, California was one of the places that stayed open late. My partner is a musician so this is something I understand. The OTAB uses a grant process for events and they are revamping this process to make it easier for musical events to flourish in Santa Fe. 

We have many owner-operated stores in Santa Fe, but we need to encourage them to stay open later. Early closures, especially in the summer when visitors want to walk around, shop, eat and enjoy some nightlife, need to be examined. Since it is light so much later during these times I think businesses should be open to looking at some different business modules. This issue is not something the Convention and Visitors Bureau can viably change but we can be a voice to influence new thinking.

SFDC: Thanks for your time and we wish you success in your new position. Is there anything else you want readers to know about you?

LUTTJOHANN: I enjoyed success in my previous position in California and it is my new mission to add to cultural and agritourism, promotion of the performing and visual arts, outdoor activities and foodie travel to Santa Fe. I love the city and am ready to promote Santa Fe as an amazing destination for future groups and meetings. 

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