Visit Albuquerque leader: Business travel recovery could take years - Albuquerque Journal

Visit Albuquerque leader: Business travel recovery could take years

Tania Armenta

Albuquerque saw its fair share of leisure travelers over the summer, but business travel to the city isn’t expected to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come, according to the head of Visit Albuquerque.

During an event hosted by the Economic Forum of Albuquerque Wednesday morning, Visit Albuquerque president and CEO Tania Armenta said the industry consensus is that leisure travel, which rebounded during this summer, may exceed 2019 levels nationally by 2023.

However, Armenta said business travel, which was affected more severely last year, likely won’t fully recover until 2024.

“And for those portions of our industry that rely on business travel, that means that there’s an adjustment,” Armenta said.

New Mexico’s tourism industry has had to adjust plenty already over the last 18 months. The industry estimates that the pandemic resulted in $4.1 billion in cumulative losses for the state’s tourism industry, part of an estimated $670 billion in losses nationwide.

Despite an uptick over the last several months, Armenta noted that passenger traffic at the Albuquerque International Sunport remains 28% below where it stood in 2019.

When New Mexico relaxed its business restrictions in July, Armenta said the state saw a surge in visitation, including an uptick from Colorado tourists in particular.

“We knew there was going to be pent-up demand,” she said.

While economic data from the most recent Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is not yet available, Armenta said anecdotal reports from the event, which was canceled last year, were positive.

“It looks like it was a really strong success this year,” she said.

On the business travel side, the news has been less positive in Albuquerque and across the country. Armenta said business travel to Albuquerque has been impacted by canceled conferences and other events.

Visit Albuquerque focused on rebooking those canceled events, and Armenta said the organization was able to rebook 58 groups that were canceled during the pandemic. However, those constituted just 40% of all the events lost during the pandemic.

To help offset the lost funding and become more competitive with peer cities, Visit Albuquerque is championing the creation of a tourism marketing district, which would add a 2% assessment to guest check-out fees within the city limits.

Armenta said the proposal would roughly double the amount of money available to the city for marketing purposes.

She added that the organization is closing in on getting support from a majority of hoteliers, which it needs to bring the petition before the city.

“I’m more excited about this opportunity than anything we’ve been able to do before,” Armenta said. “This is a game-changer for us.”

 


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