The COVID-19 Pandemic has Severely Damaged the Tourism Industry in New Mexico With No Relief Considered in the Near Future
By Jo Mixon
Tourism has become one of the major economic contributors to the New Mexico economy with 2019 being the ninth consecutive record-breaking year for the Tourism Industry.
Some of the data numbers:
- 2019 made $7.4 billion in visitor spending, a 5% increase from previous year
- There has been an over $1 billion increase in visitor spending since 2015
- 6,064 jobs have been sustained by visitors to New Mexico (8.6% of all New Mexican jobs)
- 72,537 direct and 23,527 indirect and induced jobs are supported by tourism
- $1.5 billion in tax revenue generated
- $737 million in revenue accruing to state and local governments
- 37.4 million trips to New Mexico—the highest number of visits we’ve ever welcomed
Today in an email sent out from New Mexico Secretary of Tourism, Jen Paul Schroer, “Despite this strong foundation, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely damaged the tourism industry in New Mexico and average visitor spending has dropped $403 million each month. Cumulative loss of revenue exceeded $2 billion from March through July, resulting in over $22 million in lost local GRT and over $82 million in lost state GRT. Many have experienced firsthand temporary and permanent staff reduction; this may even be your reality. As of August, there are nearly 24,000 unemployed workers from the accommodations and food services sector, costing a cumulative total of $271 million in unemployment benefits. All told, the total 2020 projected cost to the state in lost visitor spending, taxes and unemployment benefits is $4.3 billion. The losses are daunting.”
Recovery, according to the US Travel Association could take seven or more years after our state once again safely welcomes visitors into New Mexico.
Most all of the 95,064 people who fill the jobs related to tourism listed above are asking how long will we be out of work? When asked in a NW Regional Townhall meeting on Tourism Friday Sept. 25, in the Q&A portion, a question was asked about mass gatherings in reference to events, it was more than disturbing to hear the NM Deputy Secretary of Tourism, Antoinette Vigil, say that most likely large events will not be able to take place in New Mexico for the entirety of 2021 and possibly not until 2022, 2023 or beyond. If this is the direction the Governor is heading, it will continue to devastate the economy of the entire state. Our economy, particularly the tourism hospitality industry, can not suffer for another full year with the restrictions in place without going out of business for good.
Chambers from all over the state continue to advocate for more input by our state legislative bodies on such extended closures and are asking our legislators for clarification on the statement provided in the town hall. Our elected legislative officials hear from their constituents about the pain, suffering, and economic devastation caused by such long closures and yet as the voice of the people, they seem to have little or no say in the process. The dedicated small, family owned businesses and venues that cater to tourists of New Mexico, both in and out of state, all agree they can and will go the extra mile to maintain safe COVID practices just as well or better than all the large (indoor) corporations and big box-stores now deemed essential, (who are making millions) yet they may be held back for years to come? These New Mexicans take the pandemic just as seriously as the owners of grocery stores, dollar stores and WalMart, but are not being given the opportunity to even open their doors.
We are being told to be creative and plan “Virtual Events”, watching Television, Zoom events or Utube events on your computer screens may be entertaining but, for example, watching hot-air balloons mass ascension at Balloons Over Angel Fire on television, your phone or a computer would not compare to being there in person. Nor will virtual events keep businesses from closing their doors or generate the much needed economic relief for them or the state tourism industry as a whole.
Economists categorize tourism as an industry that tends to bounce back only when concerted strategic marketing efforts are made with heavy concentration to bring tourists into the area. This takes time and money… money that will not be available if closures remain in effect for much longer, especially if they remain in effect for another year or years to come. As stated above by the New Mexico Tourism Department, $403 million in losses each month with the cumulative loss of revenue that in 5 months time exceeded $2 billion from March through July, resulting in over $22 million in lost local GRT and over $82 million in lost state GRT. Multiply those numbers by 5 more months, 10 more months, 15 more months and see where that truly leaves the economy of New Mexico.
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