Travelers in New Mexico racked up 35.4 million trips in 2017, 3 percent more than the previous year, and marking the sixth consecutive year of growth in visitation, according to numbers released Wednesday by the state Tourism Department.
Travel growth around the Land of Enchantment last year grew by 1 million trips over 2016, state officials said during a press conference at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. In 2010, at the height of the Great Recession, about 30 million visits were made.
The number of visits logged is not the same as individual tourists because a single person is counted separately for each trip he or she makes.
An improving economy, more disposable income, gas prices that aren’t breaking the bank and paid advertising in several targeted markets are some of the factors increasing trip volume to and within New Mexico, said Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham.
Nearly 23 million of the 35.4 million trips taken in New Mexico last year originated out of state. That represents 65 percent of all trips, up from 55 percent in 2010, according to data compiled by Longwoods International Travel USA, which measures business and leisure visitation.
Gov. Susana Martinez, who joined Latham at the program, heralded the economic impact, especially on the jobs front, where leisure and hospitality positions, many of which are seasonal, employ about 100,000 New Mexicans.
“It’s no surprise that tourism continues to be a key contributor to the state’s economy,” said Martinez.
The state’s leisure and hospitality industry added 1,700 jobs in 2017 — an increase of 19 percent and more than 17,000 positions over the past seven years, according to officials.
“It certainly helps our economic growth by drawing visitor dollars from out of state,” said Martinez.
She also encouraged locals “to hit the road and get to know your state better” this year, encouraging them to check out some of her favorites, such as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and Indian Market in Santa Fe. She also suggested they take time out and sample the state’s “burrito and green chile cheeseburger trails” and suds poured by a host of microbreweries.
While folks are journeying to New Mexico via planes, trains and automobiles, the primary mode of visitation is by car, with about 68 percent of the total trips.
Indeed, road trips remain a top draw for travel in New Mexico with 19 percent of survey respondents citing “touring” as the main purpose of their overnight trips, compared to the U.S. average of 9 percent. The Longwoods data also indicate a higher number of visits to New Mexico’s landmarks and historic sites, national and state parks, museums and art galleries than the U.S. norm.
Visitors overnighting make for happy hospitality providers because of the higher dollar spend at hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and gas stations, said officials. According to the numbers, New Mexico saw 3.3 percent more overnight trips in 2017 than in 2016, compared to 2.1 percent growth naitonally.