More Ridiculous NM Tourism Stats

More Ridiculous NM Tourism Stats

In 2016, the Grand Canyon, one of the greatest wonders of the world, attracted 6 million visitors. If New Mexico's "trip" stats are legit, it means more people are interested in going to Hobbs and Tucumcari than the Grand Canyon.

It’s that time of year again when we’re asked to believe that pretty much the entire state of California “visited” New Mexico on purpose last year.

As she does every year, Gov. Susana Martinez breathlessly announced the new tourism stats on Wednesday. In 2016, a record number of trips – 34.4 million – were taken in or to New Mexico, according to Martinez and the tourism department. If that sounds too good to be true, it is.

The “trip” stats are extrapolated from surveys filled out by travelers and probably include people who are driving through the state on their way to somewhere else. New Mexico’s 2014 “visit” stats were based on 2,900 surveys.

So if someone stops to buy gas, beef sticks or cheese puffs at a gas station along the interstates, they’re most likely counted.

That includes long-haul truck drivers who stop to shower in a truck stop and fuel up. And that probably includes people in layovers at the airports.

In 2014, for instance, 30 percent of the so-called 33 million “visitors” to New Mexico were state residents who traveled 50 or more miles from their homes. Put another way, 17.8 million of those alleged 33 million visitors were day-trippers, and 14.9 million were overnight visitors. Forty-one percent of those day-trippers were New Mexico residents. So New Mexicans are tourists in their own state.

Here’s a couple of other ways to look at it. In 2016, the Grand Canyon, one of the greatest wonders of the world, attracted 6 million visitors. If New Mexico’s “trip” stats are legit, it means more people are interested in going to Hobbs and Tucumcari than the Grand Canyon.

Or 34.4 million, about 10 percent of the U.S. population, decided to come to New Mexico.

Think of what it would be like if 34.4 million people actually stayed here for any amount of time. Where would they all stay?

Albuquerque has around 7,000 decent hotel rooms. That would come out to about 5,000 people in each room every year, or 14 people a day.

Look, tourism is good for the state, but let’s not over-hype the numbers.

On those goofy Facebook surveys about how many states you’ve been to, I often include states I’ve driven through to get somewhere else. But I didn’t stay in them.

So calm down, and let’s hope the tourism department doesn’t start counting lizards and snakes as visitors.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.
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