Tourism in Chaves County experienced its second year of decline in 2016, according to information from the New Mexico Tourism Department, but still brings in $157.9 million a year.
That represents about 11.6 percent of the county economy.
The state tourism department released information about the economic impact of tourism in New Mexico Thursday, with data provided by Longwoods International and Tourism Economics.
The information indicated that visitors to the state contributed a record-setting $6.4 billion to the economy in 2016.
Chaves County had been on a growth trend since 2011, hitting a high of $161.5 million in 2014 before dipping a bit to $158.7 million in 2015 and losing a half-percent in 2016.
A representative with the New Mexico Tourism Department said decreases in certain categories of tourism spending can be attributed to a slower oil and gas economy.
“Declines in lodging and transportation can be correlated with the downturn of the oil and gas industry in the southeast region,” said Bailey Griffith, director of public information and policy. “In the same time period, direct visitor spending has increased in food and beverage sales, retail and recreation, which means that those who are visiting are spending more money.”
She added that overall visitor spending in Chaves County has increased by more than 10 percent since 2012, when the state launched a large, multifaceted marketing campaign called New Mexico True. In 2012, visitor spending in Chaves County was reported at $142.2 million.
As Bailey noted, food and beverage sales, retail and recreation showed modest growth in their categories, for a combined increase of $1.2 million.
Food and beverage sales is also the largest part of visitor spending, $39.9 million; followed by retail, $35.4 million; and then lodging, at $32.6 million. Recreation represented $14.7 million of the total, while transportation was $30.3 million. Second homes is the smallest segment of the total at $5 million.
Total tax receipts generated by visitors was $35.4 million in 2016, with $11.5 million paid to the state and $5 million to local governments.
The data also indicate that the tourism industry accounts for 2,058 direct jobs and 2,431 direct and indirect employment, 9.5 percent of the county total. Total employee pay due to tourism and visitor spending was $59.5 million, 6.2 percent of the county total.
The counties experiencing the most growth in tourism in 2016, according to the Thursday news release, were Otero County, recording a 5.1 percent boost, and Colfax County, at 5 percent. The state as a whole had a 2.1 percent growth rate over 2015, with $133 million more spent in 2016.
Bernalillo County has the largest share of the state tourism industry, $2.1 billion, or 32.8 percent of the New Mexico total.
City of Roswell Public Affairs Director Juanita Jennings said one of the marketing efforts occurring now is to work with nearby cities including Tularosa, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Hobbs and Ruidoso to push the region as a whole.
“The other thing we have been working on specifically related to the (Fly Roswell program) is a branding and awareness campaign in the Phoenix market. Last year in the spring, we did a digital campaign, where one week it was the city of Roswell. The next week, it rotated to Carlsbad. The week after that it was Ruidoso, and Artesia was included in the mix of that.”
That promotion will continue in the spring, she said, using a $7,500 grant from the state that will be matched by the cities.
Griffith said the state tourism department has several ways, in addition to the New Mexico True advertisements and marketing efforts, to help communities attract visitors.
“The Department helps local communities in a variety of ways, primarily through our cooperative marketing grant program and the Rural Pathway Project,” she said.
The grant programs provide cities and regions money for marketing, while the Rural Pathway Project provides funding and advice to help local communities develop tourism experiences that are considered unique to New Mexico or authentic to New Mexico culture.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext 310, or at email@example.com.