NEW Mexico is beginning to emerge from the shadows of its more successful neighbouring states as far as the UK market is concerned.
The state is bordered by Colorado to the north, Texas to the east, Arizona to the west and Mexico to the south, and has spectacular desert and canyonlands, lush valley landscapes, challenging ski terrain and ancient Indian culture and reservations to explore.
Then there's the historic Santa Fe trail, the native American and Spanish influences of Albuquerque, and the Rio Grande River where activities range from whitewater rafting to boating and fly-fishing.
UK tour operators will tailor-make an itinerary for New Mexico but only a handful feature it in self-drive programmes. The lack of a direct gateway from London is one reason, meaning higher air fares, and another is the absence of funds for a major consumer advertising campaign.
John Twine, of Travel Markets International, UK general sales agent for New Mexico Tourism, said: "Having a relatively small population the region has less to spend on tourism.
"However, we participate in agent roadshows, having just done one with North America Travel Service, and run co-operative advertising with tour operators. It is a cost-effective way to promote the state and I would like to see this expanded."
Twine said New Mexico is included mostly in two and three-week circle tours from Los Angeles and San Francisco which also take in Arizona.
But there was a growth in independent flydrive traffic from the UK when British Airways began its non-stop service from London to Phoenix in 1996.
Twine said: "This has opened up the whole territory of New Mexico and a lot of people are doing the 13-night Pueblos and Canyons self-drive from Phoenix."
This tour is offered by Premier Holidays and North America Travel Service, among others, and takes in Las Cruces, settlements of Pueblo tribes, White Sands, Santa Fe, and the frontier town of Taos at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Twine said that although New Mexico shares a border with Arizona, their geography is very different, with the former's terrain rising from 3,500ft and Arizona's from 500ft in a series of plateaux up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
"New Mexico is much more mountainous and hilly as you follow the Rio Grande River which winds through the central part of the state," said Twine. "Albuquerque stands at 5,000ft, Santa Fe at 7,500ft and the historic Indian settlements of Taos at 9,000ft.The state is also considered to have seven of the eight life zones on Earth, from barren desert to tropical rainforest, to grazing lands, extinct volcanoes and national parks and lakelands.
"We are selling wide-open spaces and completely unspoilt, spectacular landscapes, including vast mountain backdrops against the desert floor."
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