is the increase in Chinese
visitors to the US between 2006 and 2009, according to the US Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.
85% is the decline in New Mexico export sales to China during the same period, according to the US Census Bureau.
" Santa Fe at 400 years old is becoming internationally famous. Santa Fe is bigger, and has more potential than just [attracting tourism from] Oklahoma and Texas."—Santa Fe Mayor David Coss
Each year, China sends more visitors to the US, and the proportion of overseas travelers who come here for business grows. (Currently, it’s approximately 30 percent.)
So why is New Mexico’s ability to sell itself—and its products—to China faltering?
“They don’t even know we exist,” Santa Fe City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger says simply.
Wurzburger recently returned from a trip to China, where she attended the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) annual Creative Cities Conference and, by her estimation, brought back “amazing contacts for the city.”
Among them is Shanghai’s tourism director, who Wurzburger says has committed to bringing tour leaders to Santa Fe this spring.
But juxtaposed with the city’s budget problems, Wurzburger’s China trip has raised hackles among other councilors.
Wurzburger emphasizes that she used her own airline miles for the travel and conducted no business on behalf of her private company, International Creative Tourism Associates.
“People who make those criticisms—I hope they’re doing as much for the city as I am,” Wurzburger says. “Whatever it cost, I believe it’s going to come back to us tenfold.”
Southwestern art and turquoise jewelry don’t exactly top New Mexico’s exports list, but Santa Fe Mayor David Coss says tapping into the Chinese market is worth a try.
“Shanghai is [a city of] 17 million people,” Coss says. “One small percent coming to Santa Fe makes a few-thousand-dollar expenditure very worthwhile.”