Report: NM’s outdoor economy is growing

John Kelly, director of operations at Taos Ski Valley, climbs a cliff on the Via Ferrata mountaineering trail at Taos Ski Valley in August. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy is outpacing the industry’s growth nationwide, but state officials said Wednesday that there’s more work that could be done to help the industry as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on all sectors of the economy.

Officials with the state’s Outdoor Recreation Division pointed to updated figures released by the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The numbers show the industry contributed $2.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product last year and grew nearly 6% since 2018.

The report also shows that the industry employs more than 35,000 New Mexico workers and accounts for $1.2 billion in total annual income. Since 2018, outdoor recreation income has grown 7.6% in New Mexico, compared with an increase of less than 4% for the nation.

Outdoor Recreation Division Director Axie Navas called the industry a “powerhouse” of economic potential but acknowledged the effects of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 health crisis has hurt many of our businesses in this space – a fact not captured in this new tranche of data. It’s our job to aid in the recovery of the outdoor industry, so it continues to be a vibrant economic engine in the state,” she said in a statement.

The division earlier this year issued a survey to 128 outdoor recreation businesses in New Mexico.

More than 90% of respondents said they lost revenue and/or had not been able to cover basic expenses because of the pandemic. Almost 78% of respondents were small, local companies with fewer than 15 employees.

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