Today, the Republican National Convention (RNC) site selection committee decided against holding the 2012 convention in Phoenix, AZ, instead choosing Tampa, FL. Although local and national RNC officials have denied that the outcome had anything to do with Arizona’s recently passed immigration law SB-1070, their decision is just another blow to the state’s ailing tourism industry. Since the passage of SB-1070, at least 23 events have been canceled, totaling a reported loss of between $6 and $10 million. The Washington Post reports:
Hispanic civil rights groups are boycotting Arizona and urging others to do the same. Officials at the National Council of La Raza, one of the groups driving the boycott, had privately asked the RNC not to meet in Phoenix.
The city risks losing as much as $90 million in hotel and convention business over the next five years because of the controversy, according to city estimates released Wednesday. The state’s hotel and lodging association has counted 23 canceled meetings for a loss of between $6 and $10 million.
Major League Baseball has already come out against SB-1070, and if it decides to pull the 2011 All-Star game out of the state, Arizona could lose an additional $150 million. It couldn’t be happening at a worse time for Arizona’s tourism industry. Earlier this year, the Arizona legislature decided to cut the tourism budget back significantly, slashing the parks budget alone by $8.6 million. The Arizona Republic reports that Arizona tourism lobbyists simply didn’t see the Arizona tourism backlash coming when they decided to ignore SB-1070 as it moved through the state Congress. Arizona economist Jim Rounds further points out that “tourism was just getting back on its feet again.” The 2008 RNC convention in Minneapolis – St. Paul generated $170 million and created more than 2,500 jobs. Arizona currently faces a budget shortfall of at least $2 billion — one of the largest in the nation.