ALBUQUERQUE – Tourism was up about 5 percent in New Mexico last year, marking a shift in momentum that is creating new jobs and pumping millions of new dollars into the economy.
At a press conference with tourism officials from around the state, Gov. Susana Martinez reported 31.2 million people visited the state in 2011, a 4.7 increase over 2010. And the number of people who were making the state their primary destination was up 12.4 percent.
Travelers spent $5.5 billion, compared to $5.2 billion in 2010, generating $1.2 billion in state revenue, according to an annual survey released last week from Longwoods International, a leading hospitality research firm.
“Tourism has an enormous impact on all of New Mexico’s communities, both large and small,” Martinez said in a statement. “We’re committed to getting the message out to visitors from around the world about all of the beautiful scenery, historic landmarks, incredible adventures and unique attractions that New Mexico has to offer.”
The increase in tourism has resulted in about 2,000 new jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries, the governor said, noting that 1 in 12 New Mexico jobs are now directly related to tourism.
The positive report comes as the state recently launched a new national advertising campaign in hopes of better competing with neighbors Colorado and Arizona for tourist dollars. While it is too soon to know what impact that campaign is having, Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson said she is excited to see a change in momentum. From 2009 to 2010, visitor numbers were flat, and there was a small decrease in overnight visitors, she said.
A number of other states also have recently reported increases in visitor numbers for 2011, and the tourism industry is generally on the rise.
Colorado reported setting records in visitors and spending. While New Mexico still lags behind both Colorado and Arizona in total visitor numbers, its percentage increase bested both of those states. Arizona reported a 2.9 percent increase in visitors last year. Colorado visitor numbers were up 1 percent.
“Those are neighbors who spend a lot more money on marketing,” said Sharon Schultz, CEO of the Tourism Association of New Mexico. “To achieve that and better with fewer dollars is very good, and I would hope, will translate into future and greater investments in marketing.”