Balloon Fiesta brings hope to New Mexico economy

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Balloon Fiesta is always beautiful, but there’s something extra special about seeing hundreds of balloons fill New Mexico’s skies, especially since last year’s fiesta was postponed.

“2019 was a banner year for tourism in New Mexico, and that is true of Balloon Fiesta, had a phenomenal Balloon Fiesta, and then you moved into March of 2020 and the start of the pandemic,” said Tania Armenta, president and CEO of Visit Albuquerque.

No fiesta meant a whole lot less tourism compared to 2019, back when the fiesta generated more than $186 million and brought in a whole lot of people from out of state.

A study commissioned by Balloon Fiesta found 71.4% of visitors came from outside of New Mexico.

“Without a doubt Balloon Fiesta is the state’s largest visitor event,” said Armenta.

Which why she said it’s so exciting to see this turnout on day one.

“There are so many local businesses that are just looking forward to this week, we’re thrilled to have it back this year, and they’re counting on this year to be strong and to be successful, that it’s really important to their revenues to have a great Balloon Fiesta,” Armenta said.

The Fiesta has a ripple effect on hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions all get a boost.

“The city and the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic is going to be directly tied to the travel and tourism industries performance and that’s because of the number of jobs and the overall impact that it has,” said Armenta.

This event even has the potential to go well beyond a couple of weeks.

“People come here and they have a positive experience. Maybe they are a repeat traveler they do want to come back for another time in the year, an opportunity to ski, an opportunity to come back in the summer, maybe they fall in love with this place and they decide ‘hey I might want to move there,’ they become a new resident, or maybe they own a business somewhere and they’re looking to relocate a business at some point in time,” said Armenta.

While the 49th festival is getting started, behind the scenes things are already moving well ahead.

“There will be a number of special things for the 50th anniversary for Balloon Fiesta, whether they are from the official organizers or they are from the businesses that are going to put on a great show, and they always do, there’s a great show this year, and the reservations look strong,” Armenta said.

A great first impression for tourists, and even better, it welcomed back those who call this beautiful state home.