NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is still urging people not to travel unless absolutely necessary. And while the state is starting to see some summer travelers, the hospitality industry continues to take a massive hit.
KRQE News 13 took a look at the numbers from hotels across the state. “Basically our travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders are still in place,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, during a June 25 news conference.
With phase two of New Mexico’s reopening now on hold, the governor and state health experts point to a rise in cases in border states and more travelers coming to New Mexico. “When you go to other states and they don’t have those restrictions, you’re putting New Mexicans at much higher risk,” Gov. Lujan Grisham added.
The impact of the pandemic is hitting the hospitality industry in New Mexico hard. “We can barely stay afloat,” said Yahima Hernandez, General Manager of Home2 Suites by Hilton in Albuquerque.
Since March, the hospitality industry has suffered a massive blow. “It is really heartbreaking because October you know, that was gonna be the best month that we were gonna have,” said Hernandez.
She’s not alone. “The day after Balloon Fiesta notified of its cancelation, we have had call after call after call to cancel,” said Shelli Feichko, General Manager for the Fairfield Marriott Albuquerque Airport location.
“It’s devastating, it is absolutely devastating. It’s not just my hotel it’s every hotel around,” Feichko added. Several hotels around Albuquerque said they’ve been teetering between 20% to 30% occupancy.
According to the state Tourism Department, the statewide average for hotel occupancy is higher, around 46% for the week ending on June 20. Estimated visitor spending losses are in the millions each week.
The average Albuquerque hotel occupancy is currently around 46.4%. Visit Albuquerque said there are various factors in each region, with Albuquerque being near the state’s two major interstates as more truckers or visitors pass through.
Hotel staff said they are seeing some road-trippers with a slight uptick on the weekends, especially in Santa Fe. Some hotels in Santa Fe are edging close to their 50% capacity limit, and report having to decline bookings weeks in advance since they don’t know when the occupancy limit may be lifted in the public health order.
“For a while, I was cleaning rooms,” Hernandez said. She said the hardest part was laying off staff who she still can’t afford to bring back. “I had like 40 team members that I had to send home and explain to them that they were not gonna have an income,” she said.
The leisure and hospitality industry accounts for the heaviest job losses in the state, tens of thousands of workers. For those on unemployment, the state’s work-search waiver will end in July, as well as the extra $600 per week under the CARES Act. “This is something that people need to know about,” said Hernandez.
A ban on mass gatherings has forced cancellations of normal business conferences, traveling sports tournaments, and visitors for big events like Balloon Fiesta and the New Mexico State Fair.
“All the hopes that I had to be able to employ back the people that I had to send home are gone now because I’m not able to do that,” said Hernandez.
The lowest dip in occupancy for Albuquerque hotels was in April at 22.5%. The U.S. Travel Association estimates weekly travel spending is currently down in New Mexico around $86 million from this time last year.