SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Tourism officials in New Mexico say more people are visiting the state.
A report from the state’s Tourism Department found that New Mexico saw 2.6 percent more overnight and day visitors in 2012 than it did in 2011.
There were 32 million overnight and day visitors in 2012. The previous high was in 2008, with 31.4 million visits.
Tourists spent an estimated $5.9 billion in New Mexico last year, which generated $612 million in state and local tax revenue. In 2011, tourists spent just over $5.5 billion in the state.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports (http://bit.ly/1cfTNqb) that tourism officials believe the higher numbers are an indication that last year’s $2 million advertising budget increase for tourism marketing was successful.
During that time, surrounding states also increased their ad budgets. Arizona increased its ad budget by $13 million, while Colorado increased its budget by $3.3 million and Utah by $4 million.
The New Mexico Tourism Department is asking for a $2.5 million budget increase for advertising next year.
While the figures indicate the state has been successful in attracting tourists to New Mexico, getting them to come back is another thing.
The Tourism Department’s annual research report found a significant area of weakness is in the area of tourists who say they intend to return. Just under 30 percent of New Mexico visitors last year said they intended to return. That’s compared with nearly 48 percent of tourists in Colorado, Arizona and Utah who say they intend to return to those states.
Two major sets of New Mexico tourists — young people and people from California — have low rates of “intend to return,” the annual report says. Only about 16 percent of Californians say they intend to return to New Mexico, while 27 percent of visitors between the ages of 18 and 34 say they want to come back.
But 46 percent of those in that age group who visited Colorado, Arizona and Utah say they intend to return.