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Gateway to growth

On Oct. 23, the New Mexico Tourism Department announced the results of its 2018 visitor spending report, highlighted by a record $7.1 billion in visitor spending for New Mexico. That total represents a 7% year-over-year increase from the previous year. For perspective, New Mexico has seen a year-over-year increase in visitor spending hover around 3% prior to 2018.

The entire tourism industry is very proud of those results. It shows that New Mexico has cultural and outdoor activities that people want to experience, and the Tourism Department’s marketing efforts are working. But these results show something more. The economic impact from tourism demonstrates that this sector plays an important role in New Mexico’s economy and serves as a vital cog in community development.

The results of the 2018 visitor spending report demonstrate that the leisure and hospitality sectors offer a desirable career path. In 2018, visitor spending sustained 8.5% of all jobs in New Mexico. In December 2018, the leisure and hospitality job sector surpassed 100,000 jobs, and New Mexico has seen that number stay above 100,000 every month so far in 2019. In September, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced the leisure and hospitality sector added more jobs to New Mexico’s economy year-over-year than any other sector in 2019.

The tourism industry provides a viable path to financial prosperity. From 2011-2018, wages in the leisure and hospitality sector have increased by 20%, and the average job in the industry pays over $16 per hour in New Mexico. According to an analysis by Oxford Economics, Americans whose first job was in travel went on to earn a maximum average salary of $82,400 by the time they were 50 – higher than workers whose first job was in most other industries.

The tourism industry also provides a viable path to financial security. Automation has presented an existential threat to most industries, but travel and tourism (are) expected to withstand the effects of automation. According to Oxford Economics, only 4% of tourism jobs are expected to be displaced through automation, whereas roughly 10% of jobs in most other industries are expected to be displaced through automation.

Data also demonstrates investment in tourism yields a greater return for the economy. According to national data from the U.S. Travel Association and the U.S. Department of Commerce, every $1 million spent in travel supports an estimated 8.2 jobs. For comparison, $1 million in spending in all other industries supports an estimated 4.4 jobs.

New Mexico’s economic prosperity is contingent on the success of tourism. It’s a proven driver of economic growth, and it is an industry Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham identified as a key sector for her administration’s economic development strategy.

But the impacts of tourism go beyond economic development. A thriving tourism industry instills community pride, which helps with the recruitment and retention of business and working professionals. According to a recent study conducted by Longwoods International for the Tourism Department, people who were exposed to New Mexico True advertising and visited the state were 168% more likely to say New Mexico is a good place to live than those who were not exposed to New Mexico True advertising and did not visit the state.

Maura Gast, Executive Director for Visit Irving – in Texas – puts it best when describing the connection between travel, economic development and community building: “If you build a place where people want to visit, you will build a place where people want to live. If you build a place where people want to live, you will build a place where people want to work. If we build a place where business has to be, we will be back to building a place where people have to visit.”

Together, we will continue to build New Mexico’s tourism, reaching its true economic potential.

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