At the 2019 NMHA Annual Meeting, we installed our three newest members to the Board of Directors. We wanted to introduce our newest Board Members through this 3-part series so you can learn a little bit more about the industry professionals that serve on the Board and help dictate the vision and direction for the New Mexico Hospitality Association. Today we meet Erica Asmus-Otero, Founder & CEO of InPress, LLC who occupies an Allied seat on the Board of Directors.
Provide a brief overview of your current role.
"I am the founder and Chief Executive Officer of InPress, LLC (InPress) - a Public Relations and Integrated Marketing firm focusing on, among other industries, the tourism sector. InPress has served several communities throughout the State, helping drive tourists to their doors and putting heads in their hotel beds. Clients have been featured in national publications ranging from USA Today to New York Times, along with local and regional publications such as Sunset and New Mexico Magazines. InPress’s clients and campaigns have received numerous awards, including Albuquerque Journal’s Readers Choice Awards, three NM Public Relations Society of America (NMPRSA) Gold awards, and four NMHA Top Hat finalist awards. Recently, InPress received the NMHA Top Hat award for the “Most Innovative Campaign,” and was named the NMPRSA’s prestigious “Best of Show.” I also serve on the New Mexico Tourism Department’s Central Regional Marketing Board, Sandoval County Lodger’s Tax Board and the Sandoval County Tourism Alliance."
What was your first job in the profession of hospitality and tourism?
"After transitioning out of broadcast journalism, I became the Public Information Officer for the New Mexico State Parks. In addition to being the spokesperson for State Parks and being charged with handling crisis management, my main task was to work with the marketing team to promote New Mexico State Parks and increase visitation. Using a multi-pronged approach through earned media and integrated marketing, visitation at each and every park increased, in some cases, up to 40% over previous years."
The best part of the job was being able to experience 32 (at that time) State Parks. Being in the field gave me a profound respect for the rangers and employees who maintain the parks. I’ll never forget staying at Heron Lake with the marketing team when a fisherman gave our group several freshly caught Kokanee Salmon which we grilled at our campsite that night; or setting up my tent under a suspended boulder at City of Rocks State Park (and saying lots of prayers.) My role with New Mexico State Parks gave me a richer appreciation for New Mexico. It also made me realize that sensory experiences, like those I had, are what drive people to travel. I am grateful to be involved in promoting our state through earned media and integrated marketing."
Why do you enjoy working in the hospitality and tourism industry?
"As a kid, my mom was always the catalyst for any vacations my family took. She would always tell us that, at the end of our lives, the one thing we could take with us was our memories. What better way to create memories than with a vacation or trip? Escaping to a new or even familiar place like New Mexico is an investment in our memories. I feel very blessed to not only live in such a geographically diverse and culturally rich state, but to be able to write about and promote it and, hopefully, inspire others to want to experience this soulful place too. Compared with other places I’ve traveled, I genuinely believe New Mexicans are some of the most welcoming. How can I help depict that in words? It’s a challenge that gets me excited when I’m pitching a story to a travel writer."
What is your favorite travel memory in or around New Mexico?
"As a native New Mexican, I have decades of fond memories of weekend road trips around our State. From the time I was about four years old, I recall my dad taking photos of my mom, sister and I playing at White Sands, our eyes squinting from the bright sand. As a kid, I would look forward to the times we would drive to the Sandias to meet my grandparents for a morning cookout in the mountains. We would watch the water spiders whisk across the stream where our watermelon was put to keep cool. My dad helped me move back to New Mexico to get married in 2002, from Texas where I was a TV anchor. We stopped at the Roswell UFO Museum. With my car in tow behind the U-Haul and wedding dress hung in the cab, we took up five parking spaces as we checked out the museum. Later, when I lived in Silver City, my husband and I went camping in the Gila and I remember how awe struck we were at the number of stars and planets that blanketed the sky. Now, one of my favorite pastimes is our annual summer cabin trips where I can connect with family, disconnect from screens, and enjoy New Mexico. I’ve always been fascinated with the geologic diversity of New Mexico and the fact that, in a few hours, you can drive from a desert environment to high altitude mountains."
What are you looking to accomplish during your tenure on the NMHA Board?
"My initial and ongoing goal in joining the NMHA Board is to increase the number of members with NMHA. By becoming members, hospitality related businesses and tourism destinations can combine forces and leverage resources through the NMHA to increase tourism, ultimately driving growth and revenue for those businesses. As a member of the Communications subcommittee, I want to work with our board to really convey the message of how much we can all do by working together. I’m also excited to be working with Cody to determine the look and content of the brand new NMHA website. As a member of the Scholarship Committee, I will be fortunate to work with Kathy on ways to support students, interested in hospitality and tourism while increasing participation by donors who are ultimately funding the Scholarships."
What could we be doing as an industry and an association to preserve and strengthen tourism?
"With the proliferation of social media sites, the trend is to shift focus primarily to that realm. Social/shared media is vital for any business or destination but we shouldn’t forget the value of traditional media, too. Write-ups and reviews of destinations, attractions, restaurants, and accommodations by traditional journalists and travel writers are often deemed to be more objective, honest and trustworthy than posts or comments which are subjective or, sometimes, filtered.
Additionally, there’s been a trend towards multigenerational travel over the last several years. I think more effort, as an industry, should be placed on promoting activities and experiences that could be enjoyed by grandparents, parents and kids alike and together. Plus, more people converts to more business.
And of course, New Mexico also has some of the best weather in the country. Most cities in New Mexico rarely exceed triple digits in the summer, our snow storms are usually gone the next day and we don’t have to deal with hurricanes which result in flooding, and tornadoes or other natural disasters. We should always emphasize our temperate weather to bolster tourism. As an association, NMHA has done an amazing job increasing its members and attendance at Top Hat and the Governor’s/Trends conferences as well as providing training opportunities for its members. One training opportunity that I think is vital to tourism is empowering/training front line staff who are ultimately the gatekeepers. They are the first encounter a visitor will have at a restaurant, shop, or hotel. If they are not made to feel important and critical to the success of the business, they may reflect that lack of ownership in their jobs. If you’ve ever visited a city outside of New Mexico and encountered a person who was not welcoming, you know that your perception of that place will likely be impacted. You may share your negative experience on social media, with your friends, and you may likely never return. The same goes for the greeter at a restaurant, the concierge at a hotel, and the person behind the register - they need to know that their actions and interactions have a big impact. They should always have access to training on how to interact with visitors and be respected and supported by management. Everyone has value, no matter what their role. And we all have a role in the bigger picture."