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Inflated Tourism Numbers?

Inflated Tourism Numbers?

It turns out that 30 percent of those so-called 33 million “visitors” were New Mexico residents who traveled 50 or more miles from their homes, according to numbers given to ABQ Free Press by the Tourism Department.

airlinerBY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

You have to wonder if the New Mexico Tourism Department is counting people in airliners flying at 39,000 feet as visitors to the Land of Enchantment.

Earlier this month, the Tourism Department breathlessly announced that nearly 33 million people visited New Mexico in 2014.

If the numbers are legit, that would mean that nearly everyone in the state of California came to New Mexico last year.

Or, put another way, as many as one in 10 Americans trooped through Old Town, bought turquoise on the Santa Fe Plaza or visited the tourist attractions in Tucumcari, Vaughn or Lordsburg.

The numbers aren’t legit, though.

It turns out that 30 percent of those so-called 33 million “visitors” were New Mexico residents who traveled 50 or more miles from their homes, according to numbers given to ABQ Free Press by the Tourism Department.

The visitation stats were compiled by Longwoods International, which calculates the number of “visitors” based on surveys filled out by travelers. The New Mexico figures were based on 2,900 trip surveys. Longwoods didn’t return an ABQ Free Press phone call on the matter.

We asked the Tourism Department if “visitors” included everyone who drove through the state in order to get to Texas, Arizona or Colorado; people on layovers at the airports; or truck drivers who bought fuel or relieved their bladders in the Land of Enchantment on their way through New Mexico.

Officials didn’t respond directly to those questions, but they did say that 17.8 million of those alleged 33 million visitors were day-trippers, and that 14.9 million of them were overnight visitors.

So thanks, New Mexico, you accounted for much of that massively questionable tourism surge.  Good job. Just stay away from former CNN anchors at the Motel 6 at I-40.
— Dennis Domrzalski

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Albuquerque’s definitive alternative newspaper publishing an inquisitive, modern approach to the news and entertainment stories that matter most to New Mexicans. ABQ Free Press’ fresh voice speaks to insightful and involved professionals who care deeply about our community.
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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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