Building sustainable destinations that residents love: Interview with Santa Fe

City of Santa Fe was the winner in the Sense of Place category of the 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Awards hosted at ITB Berlin.

“The city of Santa Fe, the United States’ oldest state capital, considers safeguarding its rich heritage a duty. A strong building code prevents structures over three stories from blocking mountain views or diminishing the city’s traditional ‘long and low’ architectural signature, and the Historic Preservation Division protects the city’s archeological and cultural character while educating the public on the importance of preservation. ” National Geographic

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Randy Randall, Tourism Santa Fe Executive Director

For this interview, which is part of a series with all the finalists for this year’s National Geographic World Legacy Awards, Anula Galewska speaks with Randy Randall, Tourism Santa Fe Executive Director.

ANULA: Why did you enter this award?

Randy: Santa Fe entered the National Geographic World Legacy Awards to share how Santa Fe is a historically and culturally authentic city that conserves its multicultural past while working to attain a leadership position in progressive and sustainable solutions for both the local and visitor experience. Our participation means we will also learn from other tourism destinations and businesses’ best practices from around the world.

ANULA: What positive impacts have your efforts to be a sustainable tourism business had on the communities and region where you operate?

Randy: Santa Fe has long been the major travel destination in the Southwest. By focusing on sustainable quality of life solutions for both locals and visitors, we have accomplished leadership efforts that are supported and copied throughout the state through partnerships with the New Mexico Tourism Department and others.

Here are two examples of ongoing work in Outdoor Recreation/Transportation and Natural Resource Sustainability:

First, Outdoor Recreations and Transportation. Santa Fe Trails began in 1993 the first all Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) bus fleet in the nation and remains 100% CNG today. The city also provides over 300 total miles of bike trails and city bike lanes. We have been awarded the “Silver Ride Level Destination” by The IMBA Ride Center. Santa Fe also has an extensive “Wilderness Trail System” of soft surface trails including the 22 mile Dale Ball System and the 25 mile La Tierra System. We are also very proud of Park Acreage per 1,000 Residents of 11.6 and 6.5 acres of developed parkland per 1,000 residents, above national standards.

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A second good example is Natural Resource Sustainability. We have saved 1.2 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, which represents 356 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). We also have saved 1.55 million gallons of water,  2,000 pounds of toxic waste was eliminated from the transition to environmentally friendly cleaning products, 1,700 tons of solid waste diverted from landfills and 300 tons of recycling generated. Santa Fe Trails began in 1993 the first all Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) bus fleet in the nation and remains 100% CNG today.

ANULA: How do you engage with the local community to ensure they have a positive opinion of your business working in the area they live?

Randy: The City of Santa Fe has longstanding traditions of preserving, protecting and producing its natural assets and culture. This ethos is at the heart of who and what Santa Fe is, including what and how we share the city with citizens. Sustainability is a way of life in the city and surrounding region. Our elected officials, nonprofits, businesses and citizens are part of the planning and progress that Santa Fe has been able to achieve. This effort a continuous process of monitoring impacts and actively introducing preventative and if necessary corrective measures to create and sustain the authentic and genuine resources of a destination.

The City of Santa Fe and our tourism partners are passionately involved in this every day. We are caretakers of “The City Different,” a committedly progressive community, and we want to use the most efficient and effective means to make a Santa Fe visit and lifestyle as positive as possible for everyone involved, locally, nationally and globally.

Building sustainable destinations that residents love: Interview with Santa Fe

ANULA: How do you communicate to guests about your responsible tourism practices?

Randy: To amplify the vast range of cultural discovery and sustainability in the area, the city actively maintains and updates the visitor portal, recently produced a series of professionally-filmed videos available online at, and has recently ramped up its daily social media and public relations campaigns.

In 2015 the city built and staffed a third Visitor Center. All of the centers are staffed by experts and outfitted with significant libraries of cultural material and resources for visitors and locals of all interest levels.

The city also works closely with the local guide community, historical experts, docents, and the City of Santa Fe Historic Preservation Department who routinely participate in media visits, press tours, and group meeting excursions in addition to their regular duties.

ANULA: How do you make sure your staff care about your efforts and support them?

Randy: We do not have to ensure our staff cares about our efforts because they are actively engaged partners of their city. Santa Fe has been called The City Different for over a hundred years because of its centuries of unique multiculturalism and spirited dedication to preserving all traditional elements of its culture while at the same time embracing new and progressive ideas in arts and sustainability. This is something for which essentially all Santa Feans, not only tourism staff, feel a caretaker’s obligation.

A notable characteristic of Santa Feans is their eagerness to share their treasures with visitors. The singular story of our Native and Spanish peoples, and the Anglos who followed, and the quality of the city’s artistic, spiritual and sustainable traditions is something that excites and inspires visitors deeply. One could say that the citizens of Santa Fe are the story and the storytellers.

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ANULA: What’s the best lesson you have learned over the years of developing a successful sustainable tourism business?

Randy: Sustainability is not about just the visitor but about a quality of lifestyle for the citizens of the city that is deeply connected to their history and cultures. A few lessons that have guided our efforts:

· Know who you are and your value

· Care and invest in your culture and history

· Listen to your local citizens

· Do not be afraid to share ideas or try new things

· Respect for those that came before and room for those coming now

· Be passionate about sharing your love of Santa Fe!

To find out more about City of Santa Fe, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, and Twitter.

World-Legacy-Awards logoThis article is part of the interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, with whom we explore the best practices in sustainable tourism communications and stakeholders’ engagement.

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