SANTA FE, NM - On Feb. 13, 2021, the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee unanimously voted to pass House Bill 267, which would provide a $45 million special appropriation to the New Mexico Tourism Department (NMTD) for tourism recovery efforts.
Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer presented an overview of the challenges facing the tourism industry infrastructure and workforce and how the programs outlined in HB 267 would specifically address those challenges.
“The programs proposed in HB 267 work in tandem with the Tourism Department’s Executive Budget Request, which includes a $25 million special appropriation for destination marketing. Without this asset stabilization and infrastructure, demand needs cannot be met and without growth in demand, economic stabilization within the industry may not be successful,” Schroer said.
The tourism recovery packaged included in HB 267 would appropriate funds for three specific programs and services:
Tourism-related events help convert prospective travelers and hold cultural significance for communities throughout New Mexico. Dozens of events are at risk of never returning without support. The appropriated $8 million for an event revitalization program will allow NMTD to help address this problem by working with tourism-related events to improve the efficacy and sustainability of boosting out-of-state visitation through those events.
The pandemic also created an unemployment crisis for the New Mexico tourism industry. By December 2020, the leisure and hospitality sector witnessed a year-over-year employment decrease of 30.3 percent. Total nonfarm employment decreased by 7.6 percent by December 2020. The appropriated $30 million for a tourism industry career advancement pilot program will help address this problem by providing professional development opportunities to leisure and hospitality employees to restore and prepare the workforce for the post-pandemic tourism industry. This program will specifically feature a talent retention higher education fellowship program for New Mexico college graduates, along with an on-the-job training program and professional certificate programs.
Justin Huffmon, Co-Owner of Old Barrel Tea Company, shared his support for HB 267 and how the tourism industry career advancement pilot program modeled after the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) included in the bill would benefit the industry. “That funding has allowed us to bring people in, grow our business, and allows us to work on our business, not in our business. I fully see this driving economic recovery in support of the tourism economy which hasn’t been able to take advantage of JTIP,” Huffmon said.
Communities have witnessed a substantial decrease in local tax revenue used to fund tourism promotion and development projects. The appropriated $7 million to support the retention and expansion of tourism businesses will help address this challenge by providing promotion services, technical assistance, and other support to business improvement districts with the exclusive focus on tourism and hospitality businesses.
HB 267 passed the committee unanimously on a 9-0 vote.
“Recovery will be difficult, but the investment outlined in HB 267 is the path forward,” Schroer said as she concluded her presentation.
The following organizations have endorsed HB 267:
The $45 million special appropriation for tourism workforce and infrastructure recovery included in HB 267 and the $25 million special appropriation for tourism promotion included in the Executive Budget Recommendation are designed to work in tandem by providing necessary asset stabilization to meet growing demand.
The New Mexico tourism industry has suffered severe economic injury due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NMTD estimates the state lost over $3.15 billion in visitor spending in 2020. The estimated loss of visitor spending translates to a loss of $190 million in state and local tax revenue. As of December 2020, an estimated 30,000 leisure and hospitality workers remain unemployed.
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