Santa Fe, New Mexico attracts more tourists spending less money


Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of Santa Fe County. Santa Fe (meaning “holy faith” in Spanish) had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census. It is the principal city of a Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Santa Fe County and is part of the larger Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Las Vegas Combined Statistical Area.

The city of Santa Fe was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages with founding dates between 1050 to 1150. One of the earliest known settlements in what today is downtown Santa Fe came sometime after 900. A Native American group built a cluster of homes that centered around the site of today’s Plaza and spread for half a mile to the south and west; the village was called Ogapoge. The Santa Fe River provided water to people living there. The Santa Fe River is a seasonal waterway which was a year round stream until the 1700s. As of 2007, the river was recognized as the most endangered river in the United States, according to the conservation group American Rivers.

The mainline of the railroad bypassed Santa Fe, and it lost population. However artists and writers, as well as retirees, were attracted to the cultural richness of the area, the beauty of the landscapes and its dry climate. Local leaders began promoting the city as a tourist attraction. The city sponsored architectural restoration projects and erected new buildings according to traditional techniques and styles, thus creating the “Santa Fe style”. Edgar L. Hewett, founder and first director of the School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, was a leading promoter. He began the Santa Fe Fiesta in 1919 and the Southwest Indian Fair in 1922 (now known as the Indian Market). When he tried to attract a summer program for Texas women, many artists rebelled saying the city should not promote artificial tourism at the expense of its artistic culture. The writers and artists formed the Old Santa Fe Association and defeated the plan.

It might very well be that more people are visiting Santa Fe, but they are buying less stuff.

That could be one conclusion from final 2012-13 fiscal year lodging and gross receipts tax data received by the city of Santa Fe Finance Department.

Overall, the fiscal year showed a small increase in overall GRT collections — about one-half of 1 percent. And within the various categories the retail sector is by far the largest — bringing in about $24 million for the city last fiscal year out of the $84 million in total revenue. Retail collections were down about 1.5 percent down from a year earlier and remain down some 10 percent from the peak year 2007-08. That decline was offset by increases in food, accommodations, arts and entertainment.

Take that number and add the lodgers tax revenue — which is up a whopping 6.3 percent for the just-ended fiscal year and at a five-year high — and one can see that people are coming to Santa Fe to perhaps see the many cultural and historical sites and events, but spending their money more on food and entertainment than in years past.

Maybe it’s a continuation of the Forrest Fenn and Breaking Bad tourism trend The New Mexican has been covering, in which people come to New Mexico for history and adventure. Or maybe it is just the fact that more people flying have to pay to check their bags, so they have less room for souvenirs.