FILE - Balloon Fiesta hot air

Balloons fly over Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta is the biggest balloon event in the world.

(The Center Square) – New Mexico’s tourism industry soon will welcome back visitors from across the border after more than a year. 

U.S. officials plan to announce a reopening of the country’s southern border with Mexico to nonessential travelers, according to reports from NPR. The move, which is to be formally announced Wednesday, is to coincide with the northern border into Canada reopening as well. 

Officials plan to make the change in November, marking 18 months of restrictions for nonessential border crossings since March 2020. 

International travel will be restricted, however, to those fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The change does not apply to illegal border crossings, which have increased exponentially since President Joe Biden took office.

New Mexico’s tourism industry, second to natural resource extraction, has become a major sector of the state’s economy. According to the New Mexico Office of Tourism, visitors to the state spent $7.4 billion in 2019, generating $10.4 billion in sales and $1.5 billion in tax revenue.

The news was welcomed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. 

"The opening of the northern border has been achieved, we are going to have normality in our northern border," Obrador told Reuters on Wednesday.

While restricting travel was justified by state and federal officials to slow the spread of COVID-19, the sudden halt of incoming nationals took a toll on the travel and tourism industry. 

“Declines in international visitation since the start of the pandemic have resulted in more than $250 billion in lost export income and more than a million U.S. jobs,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The closed Canadian and Mexican land borders alone costs the U.S. economy nearly $700 million per month. The full reopening of international travel to the United States to fully vaccinated individuals is overdue and will provide a jolt to the U.S. economy, travel businesses large and small, and to destinations across America.”

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.