Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The city of Santa Fe has been a textbook example of the economic calamities tourist economies have faced in New Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenues taking a sudden and prolonged decline.
Now, new data released under the city’s new Santa Fe Data Portal shows just how much tourism declined in the City Different in 2020.
From March to November, the number of visitors to Santa Fe declined 42% from 2.1 million in 2019 to around 1.2 million during the same period in 2020, according to the data.
April and November, when state-imposed economic restrictions were at their tightest, saw the lowest monthly totals of visitors this year.
Throughout the summer, hotels and restaurants were operating at limited capacity, museums were closed and Santa Fe’s biggest events, such as Indian Market, Traditional Spanish Market and the Santa Fe Opera, were canceled.
Visitor figures recovered briefly during the summer months, peaking at 168,000 people in July, before trending downward again with the end of the city’s traditional tourist season.
For Randy Randall, director of Tourism Santa Fe, the decline did not come as a surprise. In fact, he had initially expected a larger decrease of around 60%.
“It’s actually a little better than I thought it would be,” Randall said.
The reason behind that, he said, is Santa Fe’s large supply of short-term rentals, which have made up for substantial losses among the city’s many hotels.
Short-term rentals, which often use such services as Airbnb and Vrbo to fill rooms, are more attractive to visitors during the pandemic because they’re perceived as safer than hotels, although Randall added it’s unclear how true that is.
While tourism data for 2020 was scant, the portal did show trends in Santa Fe in previous years. In general, most visitors were ages 35 to 54 and came from out of state, in particular Texas.
Randall said most tourists visiting Santa Fe nowadays are younger and hoteliers report that even more Texans have visited. The city has tried appealing more to in-state travelers during the pandemic.
“(Texans) had less restrictions in their state and seemed to be less concerned about the virus than other people,” Randall said.
Decreases in tourism revenue forced the city to make sweeping budget cuts, impose employee furloughs and reorganize departments earlier in the year.
The data is just one part of the information released under the new Santa Fe Data Platform, which the city officially released Tuesday.
The portal, accessible to all members of the public, includes data related to residential demographics, households, education levels and statistics on travel to Santa Fe. A team of nonprofits, local entities and governmental organizations is credited with helping launch the site.
“We have come together from a wide variety of sectors with a shared dedication to improving the lives of our city’s residents and visitors,” Project Coordinator Cyndi Conn said in a written statement.
A release about the portal says city officials plan on using the data when making legislative decisions, especially where the COVID-19 pandemic plays a role.