‘A Large Source of Visitors and Revenue’

How are Arizona's new immigration laws impacting our industry?

In response to Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has called for an economic boycott of the Grand Canyon State — especially as a meeting destination. Grijalva said in a statement:

We are calling on organizations not to schedule conventions or conferences in the state until it reverses this decision. 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 before it’s too late.

Well, if anyone still needs a reminder that meetings mean business, there it is. As Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, tells Convene: “This issue clearly demonstrates the volatility of the convention and visitor industry. In this economy, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to attract visitors to Arizona, not discourage them. Like conventions, visitors also have choices, and we will never know the full impact critical issues have on those choices.”
Indeed, I can’t help but wonder if meeting professionals should be, well, flattered. Because look at the economic and political muscle their conferences and conventions are perceived to have! But as a matter of policy, does Grijalva’s idea make sense? Would it send a clear, powerful message, and garner the results that Grijalva is seeking? Or is it likely to do more harm than good, possibly opening the Pandora’s box of unintended consequences?

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.

  • TWH

    Instead of boycotting the state, why not hold meetings and have lawful protests as part of the CSR of the meeting itself. The CVBs could create a special package for convention groups that lets them know where and from whom permits need to be gotten and help publicize these and other meeting-associated activities that are pro-immigration/diversity.

  • Christopher Durso

    A great idea, TWH. Elsewhere in his statement, Rep. Grijalva says: "Just as professional athletes refused to recognize Arizona until it recognized Martin Luther King Jr., we are calling on businesses and organizations not to bring their conventions to Arizona until it recognizes civil rights and the meaning of due process. We don’t want to sustain this effort any longer than necessary." Something tells me MLK himself would like your suggestion — working within the system in a way that doesn't inadvertently hurt the people you're trying to help.

  • Joan Eisenstodt

    Short response: for many organizations and companies, the spirit and fact of this law is in conflict w/their missions, bylaws and policies. For many whose meeting delegates could be targeted (I've posted a ton of links on the MiForum listserv about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his tactics for all those who think it can't happen to "just anyone") it is a risk assessment determination. Given the groups who have canceled and put out statements about why they are not going to AZ, something tells me that Dr. King would approve a protest. Maybe you had to have marched for civil rights to believe that.
    I want this law to go away. Our industry, through Steve Moore and others in AZ, evidently worked hard to ensure it wouldn't pass. It however did. Now there is work to be done to protest it by votes from the people of AZ. THEY are the only ones who can make this happen — other than all the lawsuits that are being filed.

    Further, there are pending actions in many states to enact similar bills. Those reading this need to be more aware of current events and laws to determine what they will do now before those laws are enacted and we are facing similar issues around the US.

  • rprspeaker

    Whether one perceives the merits of Arizona SB 1070 as good or bad, one should not prompt a cause of action against the hospitality industry. I am not taking a position on the merits of the law – my only position is that again our industry is chosen as the whipping boy for all political recourse.

    For more on my comments – go to:

  • Who is KT?

    The travel industry should have been vocal with the legislature BEFORE the law was passed – they had to know that they would be hit hard. A boycott was inevitable and they should have been smart enough to see it coming. It's not like it's the first time – remember MLK day?