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Tourism ‘doing quite well’ in New Mexico as COVID-19 pandemic eases

Tourism is roaring back in New Mexico more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the state’s tourism department.

“We returned to 2019 levels in October of 2021,” Jim Walton, public Information officer with the New Mexico Tourism Department, told The Center Square. “We’re actually doing quite well.”

This summer, the state could actually exceed pre-pandemic levels of tourism, Walton added. The only factor that could prevent that from happening would be labor shortages and high fuel prices that are affecting air travel, he said.

During the pandemic, New Mexico had a “very successful” campaign to raise awareness of job opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industries, which are experiencing labor shortages, he said.

Walton noted that there’s some pent-up demand for tourism, even with higher gasoline prices.

New Mexico is known for the annual balloon festival in Albuquerque, but history and culture are also among the strongest tourist attractions in the state.

“We have one of the oldest active cities in the northern hemisphere, Acoma Pueblo,” Walton said. “It’s amazing. There is so much to see geographically and culturally. We have gold-medal trout fishing and outdoor tourism that rivals any of the western states. New Mexico is kind of a hidden gem to a lot of people.”

As of April 1, New Mexico also has legal recreational cannabis sales, which could be a boost for tourism.

In the first week, the state saw $6.1 million in adult-use cannabis sales, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Business was particularly brisk in towns near the Texas border, according to the report.

Cannabis is an industry that doesn’t need a lot of marketing support, Walton said.

“It seems to be thriving quite well on its own,” Walton said. “We think, excuse the expression, that it will have its own grass-roots effort for marketing.”

This article was originally posted on Tourism ‘doing quite well’ in New Mexico as COVID-19 pandemic eases

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