Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

It’s time to partay! We are homebound no more and have put the welcome mat out to those around the U.S. and to locals who are planning staycations rather than going abroad. As we emerge, starved for stimulus and overloaded by the virtual realm of in-home classrooms and streaming sitcoms ad nauseum, it’s time to hit the state’s highways and mountain tops, or explore locally what the Land of Enchantment can offer us.

Finally, as of July 1, no more color-coded, county-by-county system as COVID-19 health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities are lifted. Limitations on mass gatherings are gone, and businesses around the state can now operate at 100 percent of maximum occupancy as all pandemic-related capacity restrictions on all forms of commercial activities are dropped by the state. 

While there have been no state travel restrictions or requirements since mid-February, many state residents have chosen to continue to hunker down at home and stay safe. “I firmly believe limitless possibility awaits us on the other side of this crisis, and I am confident that, continuing to work together for the betterment of all New Mexico workers and families, we will be a national model for recovery, growth and new opportunity,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

We live in a state where tourists have come from all over the world to experience and explore our land. There are a wide variety of opportunities for a traveler to become enraptured in our state. To help jump-start the post-COVID recovery, New Mexicans are encouraged to join incoming tourists for a staycation and immerse themselves in local experiences that combine adventure with culture.

The state will continue to follow CDC guidance with respect to face-coverings. Businesses can still require additional precautions to ensure the health and safety of their customers and staff and are advised to enact whatever face-masking and social-distancing measures they feel are appropriate.

The New Mexico Tourism Department (NMTD) placed the Tourism Injury Index data dashboard on the NMTD website in January to help track and understand the economic impact of the pandemic on New Mexico’s tourism industry. The dashboard evaluates the likelihood of a quick recovery for the tourism industry by county.

As we emerge from restrictions, a good place to spend your dollars are in Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Eddy, Socorro, McKinley, Guadalupe and Quay counties. These specific counties are facing a more difficult recovery due to severe economic injury and a slower projected recovery timeline.

“The numbers in this data dashboard and the findings from the Tourism Injury Index demonstrate how imperative it is that we invest in tourism recovery that supports every part of our state right now,” Cabinet Secretary Jen Paul Schroer said.

Legislators are appropriating beaucoup dollars to help jump-start the state’s economy. The Executive Budget Recommendation for FY22 included a special appropriation of $25 million for tourism recovery. “The $25 million special appropriation is a targeted investment in tourism recovery that will keep New Mexico competitive and will help kick-start our economy as we begin to promote travel again,” Schroer said.  

Mayor Tim Keller appropriated $1.5 million to promote Albuquerque to Americans and locals eager to vacation again. The Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board will administer the funds for several tourism partners including the Albuquerque Convention Center, Visit Albuquerque and the Greater Albuquerque Hotel and Lodging Association. “We know how much the tourism industry in Albuquerque has suffered as a result of the pandemic. Helping them get back on their feet will boost the entire local economy and bring jobs for Burqueños back sooner,” Mayor Keller said.

New Mexico’s blue skies and the visual intensity of color, art, music, cuisine and dance mingled with the legacy of Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures cannot be found in any other place in America. From ancient times through the present, the heritage of those who have lived, loved and died on the high desert land have brought incredible diversity, vibrant traditions and values that make the Land of Enchantment the tourist destination it is today.  

The New Mexico True brand has been updated, and the “Land of Enchantment” has finally been added to the logo. No brainer. It’s been on our license plates since 1941! “Now that we’re on the verge of an era of renewal for New Mexico’s tourism industry, we’re hopeful that the refresh of the New Mexico True brand will provide the inspiration and reinvigoration we will need to rebuild demand for travel to New Mexico,” Secretary Schroer said.

For locals, staycations are a great way to save money and chill without schlepping your bags through international customs and the airport. A staycation can save a family hundreds of dollars in travel expenses and bring revenue to the local economy. Local shops, restaurants and hotels can reap the benefits not only from out-of-staters but of our citizens’ tourist dollars as well. 

Go on day trips. Splurge on a date night. Take a mini road trip. Have a spa day. Get outside and explore your city. Camp out in the backyard and have your meals delivered. Go to a local festival or free concert. Rent bikes and go for a ride. Go shopping, as taking a day or two just to shop can be relaxing in itself.

Search the web to discover new places in your own town and around the state. Double-check that wherever you plan on going is actually open again. It’s amazing how getting away to a new spot in your hometown can feel so refreshing. It’s somewhere different than the four walls of a home, and that’s what really matters.

“The best is yet to come. It would not have been possible without the commitment and sacrifice of so many in our state. We looked out for one another. We made the tough choices. We did this together—with the fortitude and perseverance and compassion that makes us who we are as New Mexicans,” said Lujan Grisham.

Explore New Mexico staycations and plan your next trip by visiting newmexico.org.

Written by

Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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