ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An uptick in day-trip traffic helped make 2012 a record-setter for the New Mexico tourism industry.
The Land of Enchantment scored 32 million domestic visits last year, according to numbers announced Monday by Gov. Susana Martinez and Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson.
That’s better than the previous high of 31.4 million, set in 2008. It’s also 2.6 percent higher than the 31.2 million visits logged in 2011.
The numbers – culled from Longwoods International Travel USA data – show that day trips accounted for 17.5 million of those visits and all of the growth. Overnight visitation remained flat.
Jacobson blamed the unchanged overnight numbers on declines in business travel and trips to see family and friends, but overnight trips for other reasons increased 11 percent.
Martinez heralded the economic impact of the 32 million visits.
“Not only are we welcoming more visitors, those visitors are spending more money right here in our state,” she said during a news conference at Hotel Albuquerque.
Longwoods data indicate domestic tourism spending increased by 7.5 percent in 2012. Day-trippers upped their spending at a higher rate, dropping 12.9 more per person in 2012 than 2011 (from $62 to $70). Overnight visitors spent 4.9 percent more.
The state estimates the 2012 visitation to New Mexico resulted in $5.9 billion in direct spending.
The New Mexico leisure and hospitality industry employed 88,300 workers in May, the latest month for which final data are available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That ties the highest level since October of 2007.
“I think the fact that we’re seeing such great tourism job growth is a great way of saying, ‘Yep, these numbers make sense,'” Jacobson said. “Because people aren’t going to be hiring people, obviously, if they can’t pay those wages. And they can’t pay those wages if they’re not getting more money.”
Annual averages of monthly figures from the BLS show the industry’s employment grew 1.7 percent from 2011 to 2012 in New Mexico. Nationally, it increased 3 percent.