A Prime Opportunity to Privatize Tourism-Promotion

tourism

Yesterday, Governor Martinez announced that “tourism in 2014 generated the largest economic impact in state history, injecting $6.1 billion into New Mexico’s economy and supporting nearly 89,000 jobs.”

It’s good news for a state that has yet to recover from the Great Recession. (The Land of Enchantment has fewer jobs today than it did in early 2008.)

But it’s also a reminder that taxpayers foot much of the bill to market the tourism industry. This fiscal year, the Tourism Department will spend $13.6 million, while the budget for the Department of Cultural Affairs tops $30 million.

Do all those millions represent a wise “public investment”? Probably not. Earlier this year, the Mackinac Center’s Michael J. Hicks and Michael D. LaFaive found that in Michigan, “while government marketing of tourism activities does generate value for some industries, the benefits were puny and outweighed by the costs to the state’s economy as a whole.”

Even without tourism promotion — be it funded by government or the private sector — New Mexico would draw plenty of visitors, from hikers to Ufologists, foodies to art aficionados. The governor and legislators should recognize that there is no legitimate role for government to play in bringing tourists to the state, and pursue privatization-oriented reforms. With the industry on the rebound in New Mexico, there’s no time like the present.

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