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The Town of Taos is asking the community to join us in exploring the future of tourism in Taos.

Taos Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP)

Thank you for your participation! The DSP is now complete.

We invite all members of the community to thoroughly examine this document, familiarize themselves with the discoveries, and actively engage in advancing this initiative collectively.

View the DSP Here.

If you would like to get involved or have questions, please reach out to: [email protected]

Main Issues Identified by the Taos Community

  • A. Labor shortage
  • B. Lack of affordable workforce housing
  • C. Gentrification–displacement of long-time residents and the loss of local culture and identity
  • D. Absence of sustainability guidelines and communication strategies for businesses (with tour operators as one key group mentioned), visitor behavior and promoting respectful travel, and resident – ongoing engagement and educating residents.
  • E. Deficiency in tourism planning and management, including the absence of a destination management organization and insufficient government support for tourism
  • F. Inconsistent distribution of tourism economic benefits, felt most acutely by the Hispanic or Latino community
  • G. Inadequate infrastructure, notably public parking and restroom facilities
  • H. Lack of integrated monitoring of tourism impacts
  • I. Lack of collaborative response to addressing the challenges of climate change

View the Community Meeting (Nov. 2) Slide Deck for more information.

Findings – Final Reports

Want to be involved? Email [email protected] to learn more.

If you live or work in Taos, you know the importance and impact of tourism on our community. That’s why the Town of Taos has partnered with the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and the George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies to create a Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP) aimed at promoting responsible tourism practices that promote, preserve, and celebrate Taos’ unique natural and cultural heritage.

This year-long project will focus on developing strategies and initiatives to enhance the sustainability of tourism in the region while also ensuring that tourism benefits the local community, respects the area’s cultural and natural resources, and remains true to the community’s shared values.

Central and unique to the planning process is fostering greater collaboration and alignment between residents, local governments, tourism industry stakeholders, enterprise leaders, nonprofit and social services managers, public land managers, the diverse workforce, and neighboring communities. 

Local Voices Discussing Tourism

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Inclusion and outreach: the outcomes will be determined through the input of all stakeholder groups, including those most impacted by current tourism issues, especially local year-round residents, visitors, and industry partners.

Collaboration and consensus: the bringing together of the entire community and tourism sector stakeholders to craft a shared vision, prioritize issues, develop practical solutions, and secure buy-in for implementation.

Data and research-driven planning: the plan development process will be strategically crafted based on a proven methodology for community-focused sustainability-minded destinations that involves holistic planning as well as primary and secondary research.

The DSP work began in April of 2023 and will continue for 12 months, with an additional 6 months to begin implementation of the plan.

Phase 1:

Inventory of Existing Conditions

  • Launch Steering Committee
  • Develop Stakeholder Engagement Plan and Communications Strategy
  • Analysis of Online Travel Reviews
  • Create Resident Tourism Sentiment Survey
  • Review Comprehensive Analysis of Existing Destination Data, Including Prior Visitor Input
  • Draft Situation Analysis Report
Phase 2:


  • Launch Resident Tourism Sentiment Survey, Analyze results
  • Plan for Community Meetings for Process Introduction and Initial Feedback Collection
  • Validate Situation Analysis Report
Phase 3:


  • Share Results/Analysis of Resident Sentiment Report
  • Lead In-Person Community Visioning and Planning Workshops
  • Host Stakeholder Focus Groups
  • Host 1:1 Interviews and Focus Groups With Elected Officials, Land Managers, Business and Civic Leaders
  • Share Workshop Outcomes Report
  • Further Develop and Prioritize Initiatives with Stakeholder Groups
Phase 4:


  • Draft Destination Stewardship Plan
  • Onsite Visit to Present Key Stakeholder Findings for Validation

Findings – Final Reports:

  1. Situation Analysis Report (SAR)
  2. Resident Tourism Sentiment Survey
  3. Business Tourism Sentiment Survey
  4. Analysis of Online Travel Reviews

Active Phase


  • Delivery of Final Destination Stewardship Plan and Research Toolkit
  • Community Outreach to Launch the DSP to Shape the Future of Tourism

Action Items:


Final Destination Stewardship Plan:

  1. Destination Stewardship Plan

DSPs are a relatively new tool supporting tourism organizations, designed to take a holistic approach to overall assessment and strategic planning for developing a roadmap to support the long-term health of destinations and the well-being of host communities. The DSP involves a highly participatory development process that includes all key stakeholder groups and members of the community, public, and tourism business sectors. This strategic roadmap will identify, amplify, and align shared community values in ecosystem stewardship, economic vibrancy, infrastructure investments, growth management, and quality of life enhancement for residents.

Destination stewardship balances the needs and expectations of visitors with the needs of local residents, businesses, and the environment. The goal of the DSP is coordinated management of all the elements that make up a tourism destination, such as local governments, tourism industry stakeholders, enterprise leaders, nonprofit and social services managers, public land managers, residents, and the diverse county and neighboring community workforce. Destination management includes the planning, development, marketing, and monitoring of destinations as well as how they are managed physically, operationally, and financially.

Sustainable tourism is defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.” Sustainable tourism “refers to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability.” (UNWTO). 

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) defines sustainable tourism as sustainable practices in and by the tourism industry. “It is an aspiration to acknowledge all impacts of tourism, both positive and negative. It aims to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones.”

The Town of Taos, and surrounding areas, have experienced an increase in visitor volume during the pandemic, similar to other mountain resort towns around the United States. Statewide, New Mexico saw a visitor spending increase in 2021 that surpassed 2019 levels for the first time. This increased visitor volume, combined with the inflow of remote workers, second homeowners, and the increase of short-term rental (STR) units, has created a situation that requires a delicate balance to be struck to support the unique challenges The Town now faces.  Tourism, as the primary driver of Taos’ economy, must be supported and managed while promoting long-term tourism sustainability to preserve its tourism assets.  Due to the current new-resident growth rates, these goals must be accomplished while simultaneously ensuring socio-economic balance in the community and focusing on the quality of life for all residents.

The Town of Taos understands that a community-led approach to managing tourism for our destination is crucial in supporting the needs of Taos residents, business owners, and visitors. It is no longer acceptable to market Taos without considering the outcomes that affect our people, place, economy, and environment. By prioritizing the development of a DSP for Taos, we will have a roadmap to move the visitor economy forward in a balanced and conscientious way.

During the Town of Taos Comprehensive Plan and Strong at Heart Downtown Plan process, the Town of Taos received much input from the community concerning priorities and challenges related to the effects of the tourism industry on our community. Developing a Destination Stewardship Plan addresses the concerns outlined in the plans and complements the continued community-led approach to how we envision the future of Taos.

The Town of Taos’ Marketing and Tourism Department has contracted with the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies to facilitate the process. Contessa Trujillo, a native of Taos, will serve as the local Community Engagement Facilitator, working alongside Karina Armijo, Taos’ Director of Marketing and Tourism. A steering committee comprised of community stakeholders will help guide the process and set the precedent for developing a sense of shared responsibility for managing tourism in Taos.


About the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a non-profit research institute dedicated to increasing the positive global impact of responsible tourism. CREST works with governments, businesses, and communities to develop sustainable tourism policies and practices that protect natural and cultural resources, promote economic development, and provide social benefits to local communities.


About the George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies (GW)

The George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies is a leading research center dedicated to advancing the study of tourism and hospitality. The Institute works with governments, businesses, and academic institutions to develop innovative solutions to the challenges facing the tourism industry and to promote sustainable tourism practices around the world.

As the official tourism governance body, the Town of Taos employs a full-time Director of Marketing and Tourism. In 2016, the Town of Taos established an additional 6-member Marketing Committee to guide the Town’s Tourism and Marketing Director and the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board on the Town of Taos’s marketing, tourism, and advertising strategy. Committee members appointed by the Mayor are reflective of tourism stakeholders in Taos (i.e., the arts, outdoor recreation, history, and culture) and have marketing expertise. The current committee includes a member representing Taos Pueblo, Taos MainStreet, a Harwood Museum/UNM representative, a rafting owner/operator, and marketing professionals.

The Taos DSP Project Steering Committee is established to oversee the development of the DSP, provide guidance on the overall project, process and outputs, and represent key stakeholder groups in the overall process. The Steering Committee will also provide advice and recommendations to the Town of Taos.

Cisco Guevara Founder and President, Los Rios River Runners
Shemai Rodriguez Marketing and Engagement Manager, Harwood Museum
Charles Whitson Executive Director, Taos MainStreet
David Mapes Owner and Artist, David Anthony Fine Art
Lawrence “Larry” Szczech Founder, Workingman’s Taos LLC
Ilona Spruce Tourism Director, Taos Pueblo
Mona Nozhackum Community Relations Manager, Taos Ski Valley, Inc.
Chelsea Reidy Executive Director, Taos Center for the Arts (TCA)
Luis Reyes Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Kit Carson Electric
Rose Reza Program Specialist, UNM-Taos HIVE
Bob Romero Taos County Commissioner
Corilia Ortega Town of Taos Councilor
Christopher Madrid
Jessica Stern
Deputy County Manager, Taos County
Economic Development Director, Taos County
Peter Rich
Tami Torres
Amy Simms
Carson National Forest
Brad Higdon BLM, Planning and Environmental Specialist
Ruben Hernandez Razor Sharp Productions
NewMex Radio
Anita Bringas Strategic Support Manager, UNM-Taos

The project will be broken out into four phases: inventory of existing conditions, on-site assessment, participatory visioning workshops, and plan development and validation. Contessa Trujillo, a native of Taos, will serve as the Community Engagement Facilitator, working alongside Karina Armijo, Taos’ Director of Marketing and Tourism. A steering committee comprised of community stakeholders will help guide the process and set the precedent for developing a sense of shared responsibility for managing the Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP) in Taos.

The Taos Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP) Project Team will work closely with local stakeholders and community members to develop collaborative initiatives and new metrics for success, such as resident quality of life and environmental integrity. The final plan will build upon the efforts of well-established community partners and their pioneering work on sustainability initiatives.

Typically, the development of a DSP can take 12-18 months. Completion of Town of Taos DSP is planned for April 2024, with continued engagement and implementation support to occur during and beyond this timeframe. 

  • Phase 1: Inventory of Existing Conditions (April – July 2023)
  • Phase 2: Onsite Assessment (July – September 2023)
  • Phase 3: Participatory Visioning & Planning (September  – December 2023)
  • Phase 4: DSP Development & Validation (January – April 2024)
  • Phase 5: Implementation (April 2024 onward)

The final DSP will be validated by stakeholders and approved by the Town of Taos. The Town of Taos will serve as steward of the DSP and ensure sustained stakeholder engagement, cooperation, and collaboration for DSP implementation. Tourism is not managed by a sole entity, and the success of the DSP will require leadership across all sectors, private, public, NGOs, and community.

The overarching objective is to determine with respect to tourism: Where is Taos now? Where do we want to go? How will we get there? 


The resulting plan will: 

  • Outline strategic goals and actions for successful long-term sustainable tourism and community development.
  • Prescribe performance indicators and an implementation and monitoring action plan to uphold and amplify Taos’ standing as a leader in destination stewardship. 
  • Define a purpose and scope of work for future phases of the DSP and provide tailored management strategies to address visitor and resident impacts and needs in the destination.
  • Design an outreach, education, and media strategy that leverages existing partnerships to educate, update and engage community members and other stakeholders about the DSP, and provide effective mechanisms for ongoing resident and public feedback.

Traditionally, tourism has been measured primarily by economic performance indicators including business revenue generated, the volume of tax revenues collected, the number of tourist visits, and the number of jobs created. For a more comprehensive approach to measurement, future success indicators should consider economic equity, community integration, resident quality of life, environmental stewardship, and holistic monitoring and evaluation.

Central and unique to the planning process is fostering greater collaboration and alignment between residents, local governments, tourism industry stakeholders, enterprise leaders, nonprofit and social services managers, public land managers, the diverse workforce, and neighboring communities of Taos.

This project is designed to be participatory, to give all community members a voice and a role to play in the future of tourism. The community is invited to become educated as the project progresses by visiting for more information, keeping up with the phases and action items, attending community meetings organized during on-site visits, and completing the resident tourism sentiment survey (July launch) – all of which will help inform the plan.

Please reach out to us with any questions, we'd love to hear from you!

[email protected]