NEW MEXICO (KRQE) — The latest report from the state’s Tourism Department shows that New Mexico saw a record-breaking number of visitors in 2021. But most of those are from other states; international travelers have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We don’t really get a ton of international travel to begin with,” says Cody Johnson, the communications director for the Tourism Department. “Early on in the pandemic, we understood that international travel was going to take longer to recover than domestic travel.”
Despite seeing less than half the number of international travelers in 2021 compared to 2019, the state did set a new record for total visitors. In 2021, more than 39 million people visited the state, according to research from Tourism Economics. That passed 2019 visitors by more than a million visitors.
Johnson attributes the increase in visitors, in part, to new advertising campaigns the state invested in. “We made big time investments,” he says, “and that included entering the Los Angeles market.”
In spring of 2021, New Mexico started a “New Mexico True” advertising campaign in Los Angeles, California. A study concluded that those ads, which included billboards, may have been a factor in around 80,000 visits to New Mexico.
With visitors from California and a range of other states, New Mexico saw $7.2 billion in revenue in 2021, the most recent report shows. On average, each visitor spent about $184 per person. That brought around $472 million in taxes to the state government and around $236 million to local governments after factoring in visitor-supported jobs.
The report does note that there’s still room for growth and recovery. Johnson from the Tourism Department says the latest numbers show international travel is starting to recover, but there’s no telling just how long it will take to fully recover. And the report notes that visitor-supported jobs haven’t quite recovered to pre-pandemic levels.