Albuquerque had a fair share of leisure travelers over the summer, but business trips to the city are not expected to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming years, according to the head of Visit Albuquerque.
During an event hosted by the Albuquerque Business Forum on Wednesday morning, Visit Albuquerque President and CEO Tania Armenta said the industry consensus is that recreational travel that has rebounded this summer could exceed 2019 levels nationwide by 2023.
However, Armenta said business travel, which was harder hit last year, is unlikely to fully recover until 2024.
“And for those parts of our industry that rely on business travel, that means there is an adjustment,” said Armenta.
The New Mexico tourism industry has had to adapt a lot in the past 18 months. The industry estimates the pandemic caused cumulative losses of $ 4.1 billion to the state’s tourism industry, part of an estimated $ 670 billion in nationwide losses.
Despite an upward trend in recent months, Armenta found that passenger traffic at the Albuquerque International Sunport is 28% below its 2019 level.
When New Mexico eased its business restrictions in July, Armenta said the state saw an increase in visitor numbers, including an increase in particular from tourists from Colorado.
“We knew there was some catching up to do,” she said.
While economic data from the last Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is not yet available, Armenta said anecdotal reports from the event, which was canceled last year, are positive.
“It looks like this year has been a really big hit,” she said.
On the business travel side, the news in Albuquerque and across the country has been less positive. Armenta said business trips to Albuquerque have been impacted by canceled conferences and other events.
Visit Albuquerque focused on rebooking these canceled events, and Armenta said the organization was able to rebook 58 groups that were canceled during the pandemic. However, these only made up 40% of all events lost during the pandemic.
To make up for the lost funds and become more competitive with peer cities, Visit Albuquerque is committed to creating a tourism marketing district that would increase guest check-out fees by 2% within city limits.
Armenta said the proposal would roughly double the amount of money the city has available for marketing purposes.
She added that the organization is getting closer to the support of the majority of hoteliers who need it to take the petition to the city.
“I’m more excited about this opportunity than anything we’ve been able to do before,” said Armenta. “This is a game changer for us.”