Things are still looking up for New Mexico's tourism industry. The Land of Enchantment beat other states in attracting visitors last year, says state Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer.
"While tourism growth has remained steady for New Mexico over the past few years, growth in domestic travel within the US … has remained fairly static," Schroer explains. "We're outperforming the national average by 79 percent."
Schroer revealed statewide visitation numbers during a news conference Wednesday morning at the New Mexico Museum of Art's West Sculpture Garden—although the event was cut short when video equipment didn't work as planned.
"Tourism has a long history of delivering economic impact to our state, and that momentum continues," she says.
In 2018, the Tourism Department recorded 36.6 million trips to the state—a 3.4% increase from 2017 and a 22.8% increase since 2010. Of those, 13.3 million were overnight stays from out-of-staters; that represented a 7.1% increase from 2017 and a whopping 32.8% increase since 2010.
Schroer says the New Mexico Tourism Department targets out-of-state guests because those visitors result in overnight stays. "Overnight trips are critical for our lodging industry, which serves as one of the largest private-sector employers for our state," she says.
Tourism officials attribute the steady climb in visitors to New Mexico's numerous offerings in activities and experiences including national and state parks, hiking and backpacking, landmark or historic sites, art galleries, tribal communities and museums.
The department also credits its tourism brand, New Mexico True, with bringing visitors to the state.
"The brand promise of New Mexico True is to deliver adventure steeped in culture," Schroer says.
Although tourism officials couldn't immediately provide regional numbers, many Santa Fe businesses say they see a positive trend in tourism as well.
Melissa Moore, manager of downtown business Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse, tells SFR this summer she feels tourism has been "exceptionally good."
"It's definitely on the upswing," she says. "The whole year has been very steady, but definitely on the high side."
Carol Imrie-Mui, owner of tour business Historic Walks of Santa Fe, shares similar sentiments.
"I feel really good about [this summer]," she says. "And if it's good now, that means October is going to be huge."
These festival-heavy summer months are a popular time for people to visit the City Different, although Brian Polgar, a manager at Doodlet's, says his shop also sees a hike in regional tourists in the spring.
"We see a lot of people from Texas, Colorado and other parts of New Mexico during spring break season," Polgar explains to SFR. "Those people want something that they can just make into a short day trip."
Imrie-Mui finds the autumn Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque to be a popular draw that increases the number of people who find their way to Santa Fe during that season every year.
Rik Blythe, general manager at La Fonda on the Plaza, is no stranger to tourist destinations. He's been in the hospitality business for 40 years and spent most of those in other tourist heavy-places like the Caribbean. He tells SFR he feels a lot of Santa Fe's tourism success hinges on the harmony of the city's and state's marketing efforts.
"I know Santa Fe has its own tourism plan and motto, but I think it works very well together with the state," he says. "New Mexico True creates an image in people's minds; they see New Mexico as adventurous."
La Fonda banks on that adventuresome spirit. Its tourist-drawing strategy includes creating packages for visitors that not only include lodging but also incorporate some of the experiences that attract tourists to town, like museums and music events.
And, Blythe says, it works: "We've exceeded 90% occupancy since April."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story featured an incorrect quote from Carol Imrie-Mui. It has been removed. SFR regrets the error.