This New Mexico Town Wants to Increase Tourism With Vegan Food

Nestled on the New Mexico-West Texas border, the quaint mountain town of Ruidoso has found itself at a crossroads. In the heart of this picturesque ski village, change is brewing, spearheaded by Carolyn Scott, a seasoned consultant with a mission to veganize the town. 

Ruidoso, unaccustomed to the plant-based revolution, finds itself ready for a transformation.

Vegan options in New Mexico

Scott, television host of The Healthy Voyager, travel expert, and vegan chef, has been hired by the town’s Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board. The town has recognized the need to modernize its culinary offerings due to an influx of tourism. Scott’s task is to work with six local restaurants and a major casino, guiding them toward a more vegan-friendly menu.

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The first steps involved Scott organizing a “retreat” where restaurant managers and chefs gathered to learn about the importance of adding vegan and gluten-free options. Scott showcased the ease and tastiness of vegan dishes, going over existing menus to help create affordable and appealing plant-based options. 

“I made a ton of vegan food to showcase how easy and tasty it is, and the attendees were blown away,” Scott tells VegNews. Scott has already planned for follow-up visits in the spring. 

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The town’s tourism board and council played a crucial role in sponsoring the project, recognizing the importance of these advancements not only for attracting tourists but also for the well-being of the local community.

“Their tourism board and their town council sponsored this project and I have to commend them on seeing the importance and need for these advancements not only for tourism but also for their own community,” Scott says.

Modernizing restaurant menus

Tourism is the lifeblood of Ruidoso, and Scott believes that veganizing the town’s offerings will have a massive impact. Families with children with food allergies and young urbanites seeking skiing or summer adventures often struggled to find suitable dining options. Scott knows that providing solid vegan dishes will not only attract these tourists but also create a new market.

Already, the success of a restaurant offering a gluten-free pizza was a testament to the demand for alternative options. “One restaurant started offering a gluten-free pizza a little while ago and they are doing gangbusters because tourists and locals have not had any options in town outside of cooking for themselves, so they know they will be flooded once they offer solid vegan dishes,” Scott says. 

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The restaurants that attended the retreat expressed excitement at the prospect of meeting the growing need for vegan choices, anticipating a surge in business. “The restaurants that came to the retreat all expressed the constant and growing need for options, so they were super excited and grateful to learn that it could be done affordably and easily.”

As for the casino’s fine-dining restaurant in Ruidoso, Scott plans to collaborate with them in the spring, bringing her expertise to create enticing vegan options. Meanwhile, in the local restaurants, a variety of plant-based dishes are being crafted, ranging from hearty stews to creative salads and mouth-watering desserts.

Vegan options at hotel chains

Beyond Ruidoso, Scott’s mission extends globally. She has also been tapped to consult and collaborate with the executive chefs of three major global hotel chains. The first phase involves five hotels in Mexico, including a flagship hotel in Puerto Vallarta. 

“Each resort has six dining establishments on [the] property and range from sushi to steakhouses to traditional Mexican, and each will be offering at least one, if not several, vegan options,” Scott says. “It’s going to be a huge project.”

While Scott can’t yet reveal many details before the project begins next year, she says the flagship location will be the first in that chain to undergo a vegan transformation. And the other hotels she’s working with are under the conglomerate of one of the largest hotel and resort companies in the world.

Traveling as a vegan

For Scott, the significance of offering vegan options extends beyond the borders of Ruidoso. Vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free travelers are becoming a substantial part of global tourism, she says. Scott, a seasoned vegan traveler herself, emphasized the necessity for hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses to cater to this growing demographic. 

“I’ve been vegan for 25 years and created [The Healthy Voyager] show in 2005 specifically to showcase how vegans could travel the world easily, and I have seen it go from tremendously difficult to almost too easy now,” Scott says. 

In fact, The Healthy Voyager recently premiered on Go Traveler, the world’s largest travel channel. It is the first vegan travel show on the channel, being broadcast alongside famous travel shows such as Anthony Bourdain, Rick Steves, and more. 

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Scott makes a compelling case for the integration of vegan options, especially in major hotels and restaurants. It isn’t just a culinary revolution; it is a strategic move for businesses to stay relevant and thrive in a changing world.

“Not only for customer satisfaction and loyalty but for their own growth as a business, it’s absolutely essential for hotels, cruise lines, restaurants, theme parks … to be able to offer dishes that accommodate this quickly growing group of global citizens,” Scott says.

As Scott continues her work in Ruidoso and beyond, the town and the hotel chains are on the cusp of a culinary transformation, embracing the plant-based wave that is sweeping across the globe.

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