Las Cruces, New Mexico is a city that continues to grow and evolve. From its rising film industry to the booming food and restaurants to the amazing festivals and events, it continues to expand and welcomes visitors to come and experience it all for themselves. These four women can be credited with creating great experiences and cultivating the efforts that go into the tourism and hospitality in the region.

Sonia HeadshotSonia Bañuelos

Visit Las Cruces’ very own visitor information specialist is being honored this year for her amazing ability to connect and guide visitors and locals who come searching for more of Las Cruces. 

Sonia Bañuelos has been greeting and welcoming visitors at Visit las Cruces (VLC) for 25 years now. She has a talent for making a connection with everyone who comes in and providing them with the information that they seek and more. 

When Bañuelos moved here in 1985, she expressed she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after she graduated high school. After working in auto-parts delivery for some time, she started attending school and was awarded her associates degree. It was while working as a delivery driver that she began to learn the streets of Las Cruces and the city as a community.

Before joining the VLC team, Bañuelos was at the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce for five years where she promoted the city and gave tourists detailed information focused on relocating. Upon joining the team at VLC, she focused more on the tourism aspects of the city, and providing a pleasant experience for those who stop by.

“I believe in what we sell, and it’s a beautiful city so I can sell it,” she said.

Sell it, she does, Bañuelos spoke of having visitors return or inform her that they are now residents. She was recently given “Cariño” by the City of Las Cruces, an award given to employees to go above and beyond their responsibilities with compassion.

Committed to providing valuable and quality information and experiences for visitors and locals alike, Bañuelos stated she strives to be, “clear, correct, concise, compassionate and genuine.”

In order to continue providing correct and genuine information, she challenges herself to continue to grow by going out and trying new places and experiences so that she can practice what she preaches. She continues to reach out to coordinators to discover and promote new events within the region. Banuelos believes good and accurate communication is crucial as Las Cruces gets visitors who plan trips around the information she provides.

A true overachiever, she’s learned to adjust and adapt her communication for each visitor depending on their interest, origins, and needs so that she may tailor their experience. 

Franzoy HeadshotPhyllis Franzoy

Phyllis Franzoy is a real trailblazer in Las Cruces’ tourism industry. After stumbling across the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, she was enamored and presented the idea to the Diocese of Las Cruces Foundation's Board of Governors as a way to get name recognition for the newly formed organization. The Foundation invited the Hispano Chamber to join as co-presenters for a number of initial conferences; thus, the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference & Festival was born.

The event is both an educational and cultural arts event, with mariachi music and folkloric dance, which made it unique. With the help of Bishop Ricardo Ramirez they were able to build bridges across the community and help address stereotypes surrounding the mariachi music genre. 

Franzoy worked hard to pitch the idea and garner the necessary support for its eventual success. The conference was initially put on by volunteers who worked on a shoestring budget while working their own careers. Franzoy stated a large part of their success was their outreach and community partnerships, “We partnered with anyone who would partner with us,” she said.

The Diocese Foundation was a big player in presenting the event, and with its help and the hard work of all those involved, the mariachi conference did well in extending its outreach to bring in students from across the country and incorporate mariachi into school curriculum.

Phyllis Franzoy dedicated her time and efforts into the success of the event, working as the co-director and eventually executive director of the conference. She was instrumental in building up this event and educating and raising awareness of the cultural arts for the region. 

She considers her greatest accomplishment to be the experience of working with people from across the state to build excitement and make Las Cruces a destination for this event. Franzoy is proud to have raised awareness of Las Cruces and all it has to offer in terms of community, hospitality, cultural arts and amazing food.

If anyone is proud and passionate about the work they’ve done, it’s Phyllis Franzoy. An innovator and pioneer, she helped bring attention to Las Cruces with minimal resources and a small budget. Getting creative is nothing new for her, and she excelled in creating meaningful and valuable partnerships that would help benefit the conference and the city.

Her favorite part of it all? “Seeing the registrations to attend the workshop itself — the educational component — from across the U.S. as well as Mexico, Canada and Germany. Just seeing that,” Franzoy said. She expressed that the workshop scholarships that were awarded in the localized area was also a favorite part of it all. Ensuring that the conference appealed to not only national students, but to the local region as well was important, with sponsored registration fees eliminating barriers. 

The highlight of the event for Franzoy was the student mariachi musicians and folkloric dancers performing in the popular Spectacular Concert before thousands of attendees.

In 2011, the conference was awarded the Excellence in Arts award from former Gov. Susana Martinez. Another pivotal moment was in 1999 when they sold out the Pan American Center for the Spectacular Concert, featuring Pepe Aguilar.


Jean Hertzman HeadshotJean Hertzman

Dr. Jean Hertzman is a real force behind the education that goes into the school of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management (HRTM) at New Mexico State University. Currently serving as a professor and the director of the school, she oversees the teaching, research and service missions of the program. With over 30 years of experience in culinary and hospitality education, Hertzman provides quality knowledge and education to the talented minds seeking to build their careers in hospitality and tourism.

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Jean Hertzman obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from UNLV, her BS in Hotal Administration from Cornell University, as well as a MBA from Tulane University. Brought to NMSU because of its attractive food and beverage programs, Hertzman was already familiar with other pioneers such as Priscilla Bloomquist and Janet Green and quickly joined them in making her mark in the Las Cruces’ tourism industry. 

Quite the high-achiever, and not one to shy away from being involved, Hertzman is the current secretary of ICHRIE — the International Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education. She’s also a current board member for the Hospitality Industry Education Foundation, and an ex-officio board member for New Mexico Restaurant Association.

After noticing the tremendous need for training and education in the hospitality industry, Hertzman wanted to be someone to help provide knowledge and education on the subject, and she enjoyed seeing the development of her students, “Helping those students and teaching them so they can reach their success — that’s what keeps you in education,” she said.

She is very proud of their outreach within the school and community and considers their work to be one of her greater achievements. “I have to give credit to all my staff and faculty for their initiatives,” she said. Additionally, she worked to coordinate the Marriott Hospitality Future Center, which helps connect students with hospitality industry partners and expand outreach for the program.

Hertzman expressed how she was widely accepted and welcomed into the tourism and hospitality communities when she moved here. She believes Las Cruces has a lot to offer, from the great restaurants to the growing wine business, as well as the downtown events and the film industry. 

Amy Miller HeadshotAmy Miller

With over 28 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Amy Miller is no stranger to providing a pleasant and enjoyable experience to visitors. A New Mexico State University graduate, Miller is the current general manager for Courtyard by Marriott Las Cruces at NMSU and the Director of Operations in Southern New Mexico for Total Management Systems. 

Miller has been in hotels her entire career, acting as general manager for Springhill Suites for 10 years before she was given the chance to open and begin operating Courtyard by Marriott. Here she represents the property and works hand-in-hand with the city to help promote anything they have going on. She strives to present Las Cruces as best as possible in order to promote its attractions and welcoming community, as well as bring in business. 

Currently on the New Mexico Hospitality Association Board of Directors, Miller makes it her mission to represent Las Cruces and speak on issues that regard the city. She works closely with NMSU’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management (HRTM) to provide paid internships and hands-on experience for students at the Courtyard hotel. She is also on the NMSU HRTM Board of Advisors.

Through Courtyard she works to fundraise and sponsor the school’s events, “We try and give back to NMSU HRTM and the community as a whole as well,” Miller said. They coordinate fundraising efforts with HRTM to support their efforts and goals, and to encourage community spirit while serving at events such as toy, food and blood drives. 

Additionally, Miller is involved with Las Cruces Public Schools and introducing tourism and hospitality careers for students to explore and encouraging them to enroll at NMSU when they graduate.

Amy Miller has received numerous accolades for her work. She was named general manager of the year in 2008 for La Quinta Hotels, and again in 2021 for Courtyard hotels worldwide. In 2022 she was named the general manager of the year for the Total Management Systems corporate office, as well as hospitality professional of the year by the New Mexico Hospitality Association. 

Highly devoted and passionate about her work, Miller has poured, "literal blood, sweat and tears into this hotel," she said. She finds that her favorite part of the job is getting to grow and the challenges that come with her career as no day is ever the same.