Tourism is one of the largest employment and revenue sectors for the state — employing more than 100,000 people, bringing in $6.6 billion in revenue and paying $660 million in state and local taxes. Whether someone is making the decision to move or retire, buy a vacation home or open a business in our state, the first point of entry for most people is as a visitor. For many, the message that had them consider a trip to New Mexico was a New Mexico True ad.
The tourism industry and broader state economy are poised to move forward under the leadership of our new governor. How we move forward is of utmost importance. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Tourism Department Secretary Jen Schroer have prioritized the continued growth of the state’s tourism industry by proposing an ambitious increase of $6.3 million in the overall tourism budget, of which $6.06 million will go into marketing and promotion. While that is a significant increase to the current Tourism Department marketing budget of $10.5 million, it would still be substantially lower than the 2017-18 budgets of our neighboring states, which were:
• Colorado: $19.6 million.
• Arizona: $21.7 million.
• Utah: $22.5 million.
• Texas: $24 million.
We know the New Mexico True brand campaign is working to change the image of New Mexico as a great tourism destination and promote our amazing cultural assets and outdoor adventures. The New Mexico True brand campaign is being seen in major airports in Denver, Dallas, Houston and Chicago, and in other media including airline magazines, magazines, digital ads, social media and in prominent news stories.
Because of the campaign’s success, we have seen a dramatic increase in tourism activity and visitor spending in every region of the state. Since the rollout of the New Mexico True brand in 2011, the number of annual visitors to the state has increased from 31.7 million to 36.1 million, a growth rate that is 50 percent higher than the national average.
Secretary Schroer has indicated that the governor’s increased budget would provide the Tourism Department with a huge opportunity to more deeply saturate the markets we are already serving and strategically reach into new markets that research shows would yield high visitor results to take the New Mexico True brand to the next level.
The additional funding also would allow the department to tap into the state’s robust outdoor economy through collaborative destination marketing with local tourism groups and private businesses while promoting outdoor recreation and supporting an outdoor-focused economy in our state.
The increased budget will undoubtedly provide a measurable and substantive return on investment for all New Mexicans, which will help us diversify and grow our economy.
Every return on investment metric shows the current campaign is outperforming industry metrics and, if we invest another $6 million, we can expect to see a robust return — in lodgers’ tax, gross receipts tax and revenue to all the establishments and attractions that see a direct benefit from increased visitors.
New Mexico is a state in momentum. Tourism and economic development are on the rise. Investing in tourism has brought us record numbers of visitors. Let’s bring more — it’s good for everyone.
As active members of the New Mexico Hospitality Association, we speak for our membership in saying that the tourism and hospitality industry is 100 percent behind the governor and Cabinet secretary’s increased budget recommendation. We can only grow with bold action. We know this plan will produce unprecedented results, and we will work side by side with the administration to have New Mexico thrive.
Randy Randall is executive director of Tourism Santa Fe. Tania Armenta is chief executive officer of Visit Albuquerque.