Arizona’s recession-ravaged tourism industry is nervously bracing for more economic woe amid mounting calls to boycott the southwestern border state after its tough new immigration law.
Hoteliers across Arizona have begun to report a wave of cancelled reservations in the wake of Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to sign a law Friday which critics say will open the door to racial profiling by police.
Politicians in Arizona have called on businesses to boycott doing business with the state until the law is revoked, a stance mirrored on Tuesday by city lawmakers in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Boycott supporters are hoping to emulate the success of the campaign which sprang up after Arizona rescinded Martin Luther King Jr Day as a public holiday in 1987, leading to cancellation of conventions worth millions of dollars.
“We are calling on organisations not to schedule conventions or conferences in the state until it reverses this decision,” said Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva in a statement.
“This is a specifically targeted call for action, not a blanket rejection of the state economy. Conventions are a large source of visitors and revenue, and targeting them is the most effective way to make this point” Grijalva added.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) was one of the first groups to heed the boycott call, transferring the association’s 2010 autumn conference scheduled for Arizona to another state.
“We cannot in good conscience spend association dollars in a state that dehumanises the people we represent and fight for,” AILA President Bernie Wolfsdorf said in a statement.
“What Governor Brewer has done by signing this bill into law is to validate all of the irrational fears by people who are not willing to acknowledge the economic and cultural benefits of immigration to our country.”
The boycott movement has also found a voice on the Internet, with a Boycott Arizona! campaign set up on thepetitionsite.com.
“I am a olive skinned native Texas who has cancelled our trip to the Grand Canyon … to let the police of Arizona determine who may or may not be illegal is insane!!!” commented signatory Patsy Lander from Texas.
According to the most recent figures from Arizona’s Office of Tourism, the tourism industry helped generate some 18.5 billion dollars in spending from visitors in 2008 and supported 167,000 jobs. Around 3.8 million of the state’s 37.4 million visitors hailed from Mexico, figures showed.
Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) spokeswoman Kristen Jarnagin told AFP that the state’s corporate-heavy tourism industry was only just starting to recover from the twin effects of recession and swine flu outbreak.
“In the recession we also took a huge hit in our corporate sectors because we have a lot of luxury resorts, golf courses and spas,” Jarnagin said.
“Then we had the swine flu, which was another whammy to our industry. And now we have this. Our hoteliers, our business leaders are nervous but I think they are just starting to feel defeated. We can’t catch a break.
“We were just starting to see some signs of recovery in the last three weeks. We were finally starting to feel positive. But now we feel as if we’re getting it from every side.”
Jarnagin said so far the AHLA had been made aware of around six groups that had cancelled upcoming reservations in Arizona.
“They range from 45 000 dollars in economic impact to 5 000 dollars,” she said. “But the reality is that because of the storm we’ve just emerged from we can’t afford to have any negative economic impact.”
Jarnagin said a sustained economic boycott in Arizona would end up hurting the people rights activists were seeking to defend.
“A boycott is only going to hurt the roughly 200 000 workers in the tourism industry in Arizona who rely on visitors to feed their families,” she said. “We’re the largest employer in the state, and we’re also probably the largest employer of minorities in the state. And those people will suffer if visitors start staying away from Arizona.” – Sapa-AFP