The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us about the essential value of the tourism dollar.
The tourism dollar doesn’t just benefit businesses like hotels and restaurants. Visitor spending boosts local agriculture, industrial services, wholesale trade and other businesses that serve a vital role in New Mexico’s economy.
And New Mexicans understand the importance of the tourism dollar as well. According to a 2020 survey of New Mexico residents about their sentiment and perceptions of tourism, 96% of residents realize the importance of visitor spending for the economy, and 89% of residents said they understand that tourism provides jobs for the community.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the leisure and hospitality sector was the second-largest industry for New Mexico, representing over 100,000 jobs. The pandemic has displaced over 30,000 leisure and hospitality workers in New Mexico, and many of those jobs are at risk of never returning.
The study also reported that 86% of residents understand that tax revenue generated by tourism helps provide services that residents need.
Visitor spending helps generate hundreds of millions of dollars for state and local governments each year for New Mexico. Unfortunately, the pandemic erased an estimated $163 million in state and local taxes that visitor spending would have generated in 2020. Those tax dollars are essential for preserving important community services, such as infrastructure development and public safety.
Investing tax dollars into tourism promotion enhances the visitation cycle and has a strong return for communities – more resources to promote tourism will bring in more visitors, leading to more visitor spending, and ultimately increased revenue for New Mexico businesses and state and local governments. And this is a cycle that New Mexico residents understand and support. According to resident sentiment, 82% of residents responded that taxes generated through visitor spending should be partially reinvested to pay for further tourism promotion.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left New Mexico’s tourism industry severely wounded, but the state has an opportunity to reduce that injury and forge a path for recovery. The Executive Budget Recommendation for Fiscal 2022 includes a $25 million special appropriation for tourism recovery. Through this special appropriation, the Tourism Department will be able to help put our leisure and hospitality employees back to work by ramping up year-round promotion, expanding the cooperative marketing program and targeted conversion tactics for direct hotel bookings, among other strategies. The Tourism Department estimates that through an annual investment of $25 million, we could reduce the tourism industry’s timeline for recovery from seven years to three years. This translates into a potential one-year savings of $328 million in unemployment costs and state and local GRT.
New Mexico residents understand the tourism industry’s vital role in our economy — and through this $25 million special appropriation, we can ignite recovery and save what makes New Mexico True.