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Local businesses complete NM Safe Certified program

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Eleven hotels are among the 17 local businesses that have completed the New Mexico Safe Certified program, according to a state official. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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2,800 in state have registered for COVID-19 safety training

About 17 Roswell restaurants, lodging businesses and retail stores have participated in a state-approved COVID-19 safety course that was funded by the New Mexico Tourism Department.

The New Mexico Safe Certified program was introduced this summer, according to Public Information Officer Cody Johnson.

“When we first launched the program in June, it was more tailored just to tourism,” he said. “Even when it came out in June, there was a very positive reaction to it.”

He said that business sectors outside of tourism began to express interest in the program as well, so training modules have been developed for about 15 different industries.

The free program is meant to increase safety for businesses and their customers by sharing best practices on preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

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For hotels, motels and other lodging enterprises, it also can mean more business.

A Sept. 4 state public health order allows the maximum occupancy of lodging businesses to go up to 75% if they have completed the course. Otherwise, their occupancy is limited to 50% of capacity.

The Holiday Inn Express on Military Heights Place is one of 11 hotels in Roswell that have gone through the program.

General Manager Sandi Loomis said the ability to increase occupancy factored into the decision to participate.

“That was one reason — and to give peace of mind to guests when they were looking for a place to stay,” she said.

Loomis said that she would recommend the program to other businesses because it keeps people informed about state policies. She added that the hotel also adheres to other COVID-19 safety protocols, which she considers even more stringent, established by the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the hotel brand’s parent corporation, Intercontinental Hotel Group, or IHG.

Statewide, more than 1,000 businesses in 95 communities had completed the program by Monday, Johnson said.

Another 1,800 or so have registered to take the program, according to Jason Espinoza, executive director of the New Mexico Society of Association Executives. That society is the group that created and is administering the New Mexico Safe Certified program, having received a grant from the Tourism Department.

Of the 17 businesses that have completed the program in Roswell, 11 are hotels. That’s out of about 26 hotels in the city, which also has RV parks and short-term rentals.

Three other local certified businesses are restaurants and food manufacturers. The others are a nail salon, an oil and gas company, and a sporting vehicle dealer. The website, www.nmsafecertified.org, lists some of the certified businesses.

City Public Affairs Director Juanita Jennings said that the Roswell Museum and Art Center is working now to complete the program and that the city is considering obtaining a municipality certification when that becomes available.

Espinoza said that discussions about developing local government certifications are occurring now.

For the modules currently available, typically management is asked to take the training, Espinoza said.

“One of the cool things that we have really seen is that businesses have gone above and beyond our requirements of who needs to take the training,” he said. “We have seen restaurants and hotels, even after they have become certified, they see value in the program, so that, as they are restaffing and building up their businesses, they are using this as part of their new employee orientation.”

Espinoza described the training as virtual, on-demand and self-paced. He said it typically takes about a day for training for each module, with some businesses that offer various different functions — such as lodging, food service and tours – taking several different modules.

“We wanted businesses to know that they are not alone in navigating these new regulations and requirements,” he said. “Then, on the flip side, we wanted customers to know they can feel confident about visiting businesses in a COVID-positive world.”

Once the program is completed, participants can use the certification in their advertising and promotions and they receive updates as needed about new state policies or procedures.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.