Record number of domestic tourists came to visit New Mexico last year - Albuquerque Journal

Record number of domestic tourists came to visit New Mexico last year

A crowd sits around the gazebo in Old Town Plaza as they sit and dance to the music of Mariachi Amigos de Nuevo Mexico this past summer. The New Mexico Tourism Department released a report this week that shows the state broke the all-time visitation record in 2021. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

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Last year proved to be a strong one for tourism in New Mexico, with millions of visitors making their way across the Land of Enchantment and spending billions of dollars in the process.

According to a New Mexico Tourism Department report released this week – which analyzed tax collections, lodging performance data and other information, and was assembled by Tourism Economics – nearly 40 million people traveled to the state last year.

That mass influx of traveling, which includes international visitors and “those who came from a distance greater than 50 miles and deviated from their normal routine,” also led to $7.2 billion in spending with businesses across the state, according to the report.

The department said in its report, which it releases annually, that the overall economic impact – including both induced and indirect impacts – stood at $10 billion. Indirect impacts include purchases by tourism-focused businesses, and induced impacts include wages of employees impacted by traveler spending in the tourism sector.

Overall, about $7 billion of spending in New Mexico came directly from domestic travelers – a new record, according to the department. International travelers accounted for nearly $200 million in spending in the state last year.

The number of visitors – 39.2 million – in New Mexico last year was also a record, the department said.

“It should be a point of celebration for all of New Mexico that we were able to exceed even the most favorable trajectories for tourism recovery within calendar year 2021,” Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary Jen Schroer said in a statement.

By the numbers

The number of visitors last year was roughly 1 million higher than the previous high of 38.2 million in 2019, according to the report.

In fact, over the past five years, New Mexico had seen an increase in travel annually. For instance, 2017 had seen about 36.1 million travelers with 2018 realizing about 37.5 million travelers, according to the report.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and limited travel across the state, New Mexico still saw about 35 million visitors. But as restrictions began to lift, and as more people began to travel into New Mexico, that number shot up and translated to an increase in millions for 2021 – an 11.4% increase year over year.

Spending, for the most part, also increased incrementally – with the exception of 2020, when spending stood at $5.8 billion – since 2017.

Other than last year, 2019 proved to be the best year in visitor spending – with about $7.4 billion flowing into New Mexico’s economy through purchases by travelers. Since 2017, the state realized an increase of roughly $600 million.

Food and beverage sales were by far the largest of sales by industry, with roughly $1.7 billion in direct sales, according to the report. Lodging accounted for nearly $1.6 billion in direct sales in 2021.

Local and state tax revenue through tourism stood at more than $700 million last year.

And, according to the report, more than 80,000 jobs were supported by tourism – a majority of which were jobs directly created by tourism in the state, others which were indirectly supported or induced.

Locally, tourism has picked up in Albuquerque as lodgers tax revenue for fiscal year 2022 – which spanned from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022 – stood at $16.3 million, surpassing the previous record set in fiscal year 2019 by nearly $2 million, according to data provided by Visit Albuquerque. Moreover, the hotel occupancy rate in Albuquerque for fiscal year 2022 averaged nearly 66%, up from 59% in the previous fiscal year when travel was still limited by the pandemic.

“This rebound was the result of deliberate decisions and collaborative efforts by Visit Albuquerque, the local hospitality community, leadership of the City of Albuquerque and the New Mexico Tourism Department,” Visit Albuquerque CEO and President Tania Armenta said.

Schroer sat on a panel Monday hosted by commercial real estate organization NAIOP New Mexico, in which she mentioned a push to advertise in new markets. She told business leaders one of those markets is San Francisco. The Tourism Department, in fact, asked for a $20 million special appropriation as part of a budget request they presented to the Legislative Finance Committee last week.

“In order to remain competitive and to sustain this growth trajectory, we must continue investing in our national marketing efforts and support the needs of our tourism infrastructure to meet growing demand,” Schroer said.

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