NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s economy is suffering right now and tourism is a big part of that. However, the state’s Tourism Department isn’t really focused on trying to bring in visitors from out-of-state right now.
With public health now at the forefront, people won’t see the usual campaigns to come to visit New Mexico. The state’s Tourism Department said it is working on a plan to help the industry recover.
“The leisure and hospitality industry is the second-largest private sector for the state of New Mexico, so the success and the ability for that industry to rebound from this pandemic will be very important for our state as a whole to rebound and recover,” explained Cody Johnson, of the New Mexico Tourism Department. “We are definitely interested in evaluating alternatives and looking at creative solutions.”
Johnson said they could be looking at a shortfall of about $6 billion in total visitor spending in 2020. Conservative estimates show around $300 million in lost tax revenue for the state, he added.
With record unemployment numbers, the Department of Workforce Solutions reports the heaviest job losses in the leisure and hospitality industry, with more than 55,000 jobs vanishing in the past two months. More than 100,000 people are currently unemployed in New Mexico, according to Workforce Solutions.
As businesses slowly reopen, KRQE News 13 found locals in Albuquerque’s Old Town plaza trying to support them. Andrew Cavalier and his dad said they were happy to take advantage of the good weather and have lunch on the plaza.
“I’ve lived here for about six years in Old Town and a lot of people that own these businesses are kind of paycheck to paycheck you know,” explained Cavalier. “So even though people come from out of state, hopefully locally we can kinda take a mini-vacation in town and check everything out.”
With restrictions slowly lifting, the Tourism Department said it’s working with businesses on COVID-safe practices so that people feel safe while traveling and staying at hotels again. While tourism will look different for the foreseeable future, Johnson said they’re looking to “Set a precedent as to what tourism may look like in a COVID-positive world.”
According to the state Tourism Department, for the week of May 16 hotel occupancy was down 53% compared to this time last year. “Although we are seeing occupancy slowly trek up,” Johnson said.
Colorado recently launched an ‘anti-tourism campaign,’ asking out-of-state visitors to stay away for now. New Mexico’s tourism department says it’s not considering doing anything like that.