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State agency measures impact of pandemic on New Mexico's tourism industry

San Juan County among the most severely affected in state

Mike Easterling   | Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — New Mexico tourism officials have developed a formula for measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state's tourism industry, and the information can be accessed in the form of an online data dashboard featured on the state tourism department website.

The dashboard includes a tourism injury index, which evaluates the likelihood of a quick recovery for the tourism industry by county, according to a press release from the tourism department.

The index factors in such variables as year-over-year revenue loss, percentage of short-term rentals compared to traditional lodging properties, dependency on visitor spending, and reliance on meetings and conventions as variables.

According to the index, San Juan County has fared worse than most of its counterparts across the state with a score of 6.75, but not as badly as a handful of other counties, each of which measured 7 or greater on the scale. Those counties include Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Eddy, Socorro, McKinley, Guadalupe and Quay. Those high scores on based on the severity of the economic injury they have suffered and a slower projected timeline for recovery, tourism officials said.

Bernalillo and Quay fared worse than any other counties in the state with scores of 7.75. The least-impacted counties in the state were Mora (4) and Sandoval (4.25).

The data dashboard, which can be found at, is designed to provide weekly updates of occupancy rates and travel spending, as well as monthly updates on unemployment in the leisure and hospitality sector. It also features year-over-year breakdowns of changes to tourism revenue and unemployment rates on a county-by-county basis.

In the category of year-over-year tourism revenue loss, San Juan County again fared poorly, though not as bad as many other counties. Its loss was 19.94%, which was still a better showing than that of Santa Fe County, which was hardest hit with a loss of 35.1%. Lea County was next at 29.75%, closely followed by De Baca County (28.36%), Taos County (23.47%) and Bernalillo County (22.82%).

Two counties in the state saw year-over-year increases in tourism revenue. Torrance County led the way at an 11.08% increase, while Otero County was second at 7.75%.

An executive budget recommendation for fiscal year 2022 includes an appropriation of $25 million for tourism recovery in New Mexico, according to the release, which cites an anticipated timeline for recovery of the industry of three years.

"The numbers in this data dashboard and the findings from the tourism injury index demonstrate how imperative it is that we invest in tourism recovery that support every part of the state right now," Cabinet Secretary Jen Paul Schroer stated in the press release. "The $25 million special appropriation is a targeted investment in tourism recovery that will keep New Mexico competitive and will help kickstart our economy when we can begin to promote travel again."

Tourism officials have estimated a loss of $3.15 billion in visitor spending in the state for 2020, a total that included a loss of $163 million in state and local tax revenue. They also estimate 20,000 people from the leisure and hospitality sector have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.