Local visitor spending up 4.8 percent in 2014
FARMINGTON — Visitor spending in San Juan County jumped by 4.8 percent last year, according to a new report by a Pennsylvania-based group that analyzes the economic impact of tourism.
The report by Tourism Economics showed tourism generated 11 percent of all new jobs in New Mexico between 2011 and 2014. The report can be viewed at nmtourism.org.
The study says that 2,809 direct tourism jobs — and a total of 4,057 direct, indirect and induced jobs — were created in San Juan County alone last year.
Darryl Dunlap, owner of Dunlap Performance and Motorsports in Farmington, said that his business' active promotion of outdoors recreation in the Four Corners region is a vital tenent of his business plan.
Dunlap sells off-road vehicles. His business saw a rise in sales of off-road, side-by-side vehicles, popular with rock crawling enthusiasts who frequent the nearby Glade Run Recreation Area in Farmington.
"Me, as a businessman, I see it as a necessity (to promote and protect the outdoors)," Dunlap said in a phone interview. "I have to be deeply involved. I've given 400 man hours already this year, personally, to improve and promote the outdoors here."
Dunlap said recent downturns in oil and gas prices have put a dent in his profits, but that may be changing, thanks to better promotion of the outdoors in the area.
"Our sales were hurt when we lost some of the oil and gas people. They were my bread and butter customers," he said. "We've had to learn how to show off what we've got here."
Dunlap has become involved with the city's Convention and Visitor's Bureau, working to promote Farmington's outdoors attractions like Glade Run. Those efforts — which included a recent volunteer clean-up day in the 18,000-acre hilly area on Sept. 26, National Public Lands Day — may be helping. He said more than 150 off-road vehicle users showed up to pick up trash, improve trail markings and make other efforts on that day.
"All that volunteering to help (improve) the area, it has to be done," he said. "(The recreational outdoors users) are buying into these trails. If they help take care of these trails, it's better for them and everybody will enjoy it so much more. Plus it ensures the trails (will be enjoyable) into the future."
And good stewardship of the outdoors spells better business, Dunlap said.
"We've sold more side-by-sides in the last 45 days than in the whole last year," he said. "People are wanting to ride, to recreate. Our sales are two-and-a-half times what they were last year. We're still seeing a lot of people that want to get out and have a good time. I'm buried alive at work. Business is doing good. If my entire year was as good as it is right now, I'd be extremely well off. We're extremely busy."
Tonya Stinson, executive director of the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the report shows the effectiveness of the new branding and tourism slogan "Jolt Your Journey."
"It has definitely been really great, getting better," Stinson said. "The report is full of positive numbers and lots of great things happening despite the troubles we are facing."
Stinson said that the Farmington City council's recent approval of the designs for the city's entryway signs will further entice visitors to the area and will help promote the outdoors assets available for recreation as well as other growing sectors like retail, restaurants and transportation.
"It's one step further. It's just another sign, a visual cue of the tourism and the community overall and it's just exciting," Stinson said of the report's numbers.
Last week, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the report shows that the state broke tourism records for the third year in a row.
Tourism in 2014 generated the largest economic impact of that sector in state history, injecting $6.1 billion — an increase of more than half a billion dollars since 2011 — into New Mexico’s economy.
Tourism in the state last year also supported nearly 89,000 jobs and created $2.3 billion in income, which was an increase of 3,000 jobs in the last four years, according to Martinez. Tourism — including lodging, recreation, entertainment, food and beverage sales, hospitality, and retail — represents one in 12 New Mexico jobs, and $610 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the report.
Martinez said in an Oct. 6 press release that the progress shows a further diversification of the state's economy.
“Tourism plays a critical role in diversifying our state’s economy. When more people visit New Mexico, more dollars go directly into our communities, and that results in more jobs and better opportunities for our families,” Martinez said.
Martinez and the state tourism department rolled out the "New Mexico True" campaign in 2012, which she credited for helping the state's record tourism growth.
James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.