Tourism / Outdoor Recreation

Whether it is skiing, fishing, hiking, biking or camping, Recreation Tourism is an important and accessible tool for urban and rural communities, especially those in the MRCOG region. With three state parks, the Jemez Mountains Scenic Byway, the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands, and the Sandia and Manzano Mountains, the MRCOG region is a playground waiting to be explored. 


In addition to the resources abundant in the region, the economic returns from utilizing the public lands and outdoor spaces is significant. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent of current GDP in 2016 and employment in the sector grew faster than the overall economy that year. A report from Outdoor Industry put the New Mexico economic returns from outdoor recreation at $9.9 billion with 99,000 direct jobs. 

In the 2019 Legislative Session, Governor Lujan Grisham signed a bill creating an Outdoor Recreation Division of the Economic Development Department touting its untapped potential as an economic engine for New Mexico’s economy. 

Tourism or visitor-related activities in general are an important source of economic revenue in the region and throughout the state. In 2017, the state saw $6.6 billion of economic impact. In the metro region, tourism includes visits to monuments and museums, conventions, hotel stays, as well as cultural visits, ecotourism, and outdoor recreation. The region has also begun to look at medical tourism and other special-purpose tourism, such as film-centric tourism, music festivals, and other attractors.

In rural communities, the region has an opportunity to capitalize on its outdoor assets: mountains, rivers, mesas; and the endless activities one can pursue, like skiing, rafting, and horseback riding, to name a few. New opportunities include golf, yoga/spa/natural beauty retreats, soccer/softball and other sports tourism. 

Medical tourism draws patients with medical needs to our world class medical facilities, connects them with extended stay hotel options, and introduces them to all attractions the region has to offer. 

In 2018, the region employed nearly 12,000 workers in tourism-sector jobs or nearly 3 percent of all workers in the four-county region.