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Tourism up for state and city, officials say

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Tourism in the state and the local region grew significantly in 2017, according to information from the New Mexico Department of Tourism and the City of Roswell.

The state recorded $6.6 billion in revenues from tourism and business visitors in 2017, according to a Wednesday announcement by Gov. Susana Martinez and state tourism officials. The amount represented a 3.2 million increase, more than $200 million, from 2016, and it is the seventh consecutive year that tourism revenues have gone up.

The number of domestic visits in 2017 was 35.4 million, about 1 million more than in 2016.

The three largest sectors for visitor spending in 2017 were lodging at 31 percent, food and beverage at 23 percent, and retail at 17 percent. Recreation saw noticeable growth with a 3.2 percent increase in visitor spending, making it the fourth largest sector at 13 percent. On average, each overnight visitor spent $312 per trip, with leisure travel still the primary reason for travel in New Mexico.

“Tourism is an industry worth investing in,” said Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Latham, who added that the industry helps to offset the tax burden for New Mexico families. She noted that visitor spending in 2017 generated $662 million in state and local taxes.

Since 2010, direct visitor spending in New Mexico has grown by $1.4 billion, with associated job growth increasing by more than 6,500. In 2017, visitor spending sustained almost 94,000 New Mexican jobs, or one in 12.

The City of Roswell also recorded increases for both 2017 and 2018, according to Public Affairs Director Juanita Jennings.

For example, room nights booked in Roswell for fiscal year 2017 totaled 252,094, up from 248,476 for fiscal year 2016. Roswell Convention Center fees were $669,964 in 2017, up from $621,190 in in 2016. For 2018, room nights totaled 260,954.

“We have seen a 58.33 percent increase when comparing September 2017 to September 2018 and a 54.40 percent increase from 2017 YTD to 2018 YTD in visitation at the Visitor Center,” Jennings added. “We believe some of this is due to the new location of the Visitor Center, as well as the marketing campaigns that were placed in fiscal year ‘18 and from which we are now seeing the results.”

The Visitor Center is now located on North Main Street across from the Chaves County Courthouse. It previously had been inside the Convention Center on North Richardson Ave.

Lodgers’ taxes — fees visitors pay when staying at hotels, motels or other commercial rental sites — grew to $1,079,105 in 2017, up from $1,075,950 in fiscal year 2016. For fiscal year, 2018, lodgers’ taxes totaled $1,109,591.

Jennings noted that ridership on the Phoenix flights have also increased in 2018, with the average passenger load now at 70 percent.

“The dollars the City of Roswell spends in advertising and marketing is showing a return when you see this type of growth,” Jennings said, saying that she thinks the tourism growth and especially the Phoenix flight growth can be attributed to a shift to digital advertising in the Phoenix market.

The city is “fine-tuning” its efforts in that regard, she said, by utilizing “geo-fencing” internet marketing. Once again partnering with the New Mexico Tourism Department, the city will target its ads to people using the BOINGO wi-fi connections in airports. The “geo-fencing” method will allow ads to be seen by people in Phoenix, Dallas and Tucson.