Ken Howard/For the Santa Fe OperaCast members in the Santa Fe Opera’s production of The Thirteenth Child.

Will anybody be coming to Santa Fe by July and August?

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the state’s travel and tourism industries, the Santa Fe Opera and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival remain on the fence about what to do with their July-August seasons.

But the travel forecasts through the Albuquerque International Sunport, a main hub for those choosing to head to Santa Fe, are grim through June.

The April to June forecast is for 30 percent fewer flights than last year — a number Sunport spokeswoman Stephanie Kitts describes as “huge” and “unprecedented.”

“Even during 9/11, we weren’t seeing numbers like that,” Kitts said.

Kitts said United Airlines is projected at 64 percent fewer flights through Albuquerque through June, and United is still slashing flights as the airline wants to fly only 10 percent of its usual schedule.

The decrease in flights doesn’t reflect how few passengers are on the remaining flights.

The Transportation Security Administration at the Albuquerque airport last week screened 200 to 300 people per day — and that included airport employees. Normally it’s 6,000 to 7,000 screenings per day, Kitts said.

The U.S. Travel Association reports the industry is experiencing an impact from the novel coronavirus that is nine times greater than the 9/11 attacks.

Biweekly online surveys done for the association determined 90 percent of the 1,200 people surveyed had travel planned before COVID-19 and 80 percent canceled those plans.

The question is, even if all restrictions are lifted fairly quickly, will the older demographic more likely to attend opera and chamber music concerts — and the most vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — be willing to travel as soon as this summer?

AARP has not surveyed members about post-crisis travel and encourages people to follow their state’s guidelines, said Beth Velasquez associate state director of communications in New Mexico.

Though concerns over the virus wiped out key summertime events — the International Folk Art Market, Traditional Spanish Market and Santa Fe Indian Market have already called off their 2020 mass gatherings — Tourism Santa Fe Executive Director Randy Randall believes the city will have a good summer if all restrictions are lifted. But that comes with a huge caveat.

“Even if the restrictions are gone, people are still going to be afraid to fly,” Randall said. “We are relying almost entirely on the drive market for summer.”

Santa Fe travel agent Terry Williams-Keffer, who owns Westwind Travel, believes many people in their 70s and 80s are “probably going to stay hunkered down” even after social-distancing restrictions are lifted.

“I don’t think there is going to be that much impetus to travel in July and August,” she said. “I think July and August may be a little too early for many.”

Santa Fe Opera did not respond to interview requests from The New Mexican, but on April 6 posted on its website “it is too soon to predict the future of the 2020 season. Over the course of the next month, we hope to have greater clarity on public gatherings and travel in July and August.”

The opera season runs July 3 to Aug. 29.

Though the Santa Fe Symphony canceled its summer program Tuesday, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival remains on the books for July 19 to Aug. 24. The festival’s board of directors met Saturday to map out different scenarios if restrictions remain in place in the coming months, said Executive Director Steven Ovitsky.

The board considered staging the season as is, two options for shortening the festival, or canceling it.

“We’re still not at the point right now of pulling the plug today,” Ovitsky said.

The next milestone for Ovitsky is when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announces a decision on whether to continue current restrictions beyond April 30.

“May 1 is our first target date, then we look at May 15,” Ovitsky said about evaluating the season. “Then the big decision will be if we should even open in July. How will people feel about attending gatherings and concerts?”

Ovitsky has been conferring regularly with local arts groups and other summer chamber music festivals across the country that draw many of the same artists.

“I will talk to public health officials I know,” Ovitsky said. “We would have to address if things are open in summer, but people will be so careful about going to large gatherings.”

Also, the International Shakespeare Center in Santa Fe has rescheduled May performances of Coriolanus and Julius Caesar to July “in the hopes of being able to perform.”

The center’s second Santa Fe Summer Shakespeare festival is suspended, likely until 2021, although “some productions may happen in summer if all goes well.”

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(13) comments

Connie Lopez

Heavy tourism this summer in Santa Fe?? Um, let me think . . . of course not! Duh

Ed Li

Not a chance. People need to accept the new reality we are currently in however long or temporary it may be.

Andrew Lucero

It doesn’t matter how much positive thinking or blind optimism we have; it won’t change the economic reality. For the most part, this year’s tourist season ended before it even began. Nationwide, the vast majority of people who have been out of work for the last month (and possibly next month as well), will not have the disposable income to take a vacation this year. Those that do, will not come because all of our major tourist attracting events have already been canceled. Sure, you may get a smattering of people here and there, but their numbers will be insignificant… Local businesses are going to have to get very creative in marketing and driving their businesses in order to survive.

Rick Lohmann

I am a longtime subscriber to SF opera. I love it, and will miss it this summer, but it shouldn't go on. Think not just of the audience, but of the musicians and singers , many of whom would be forced to work in close quarters for long periods of time. A large number of the orchestra musicians live in COVID-19 hotspots like the NYC metro, and will be traveling immediately before the season. Let's think of that.

Stefanie Beninato

PS We need testing and lots of it. Forty thousand tests in over six weeks is not much. And why did TriCore shut down some of its facilities? Not much in the paper on that.

Dr. Michael Johnson

If you think testing is the answer, read this, it also can tell you why the labs shut down, they are running out of people to test......https://www.krqe.com/health/coronavirus-new-mexico/only-2-of-state-tested-for-coronavirus-despite-efforts-to-ramp-up-testing/

Stefanie Beninato

I am in tourism and would love for it to recover quickly but are they going to seat opera goers 6 ft apart? Are there going to be a limitation on the total that attend? Randy Randall was also optimistic just before the shutdown. I have not seen him talking about the hotel, city facilities, state museums, parks etc being closed. Most economic experts predict six months to nine months for tourism to rebound. Even then I think air traffic will continue to be down.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Hopefully, in July!

david J.

For the sake of this town's future economic viability, let's hope the answer is a resounding yes!!!!! Our number one industry is tourism.

Marie Risbeck


Dr. Michael Johnson

Easy answer.....NO!

Kate Stalter

No. These articles always leave out the economic factor: People will be hoarding their money for awhile, even when virus concerns are abated.


facing reality prevents one's going off on a a WILD GOOSE chase and supplants fantasy

with reality.

with angela merkel's calm and firm leadership ----- goal directed ---- each day the GERMAN government tests 1,000,000 residents.

no obstante el orgulloso cabeza de naranja en el white house............el, personalmente con nosotros, somos los lideres de todos naciones.

! que suave !

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