Published November 18, 2010
PHOENIX -- A boycott of Arizona in the wake of a controversial immigration law has cost the state more than $140 million in lost meeting and convention business, a new report released Thursday shows.
The economic impact analysis commissioned by the Center for American Progress put hotel industry losses during the first four months after the signing at about $45 million. Visitors would have spent an additional $96 million during their stays, said Angela Kelley, the group's vice president for immigration and advocacy.
"This is as much I think to serve a warning to other states, particularly those who rely on tourism and conferences and conventions, that there is an economic impact to it," Kelley said. "We feel like this is a very modest slice, just a piece of what the economic impact is, and we don't think that we're overstating it or overselling it."
The study was paid for by the group, a liberal-leaning think tank, but conducted by the respected Scottsdale-based economic firm Elliott D. Pollack & Co.
It also says lost bookings will probably continue for more than a year, multiplying the effect of a boycott called by immigrant-rights activists after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state's new law in April.
Former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez said the goal of the boycott was to bring the state's economy to a stop in much the same way that a boycott punished the state 20 years ago over its refusal to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday.
The immigration law would require police -- in enforcing other laws -- to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally. Opponents said that could lead to racial profiling, and said immigration enforcement is the job of the federal government.
After U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put the most controversial parts of the law on hold on constitutional grounds in July, some opponents of the measure called for the boycott to end, including U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and the grocery workers union.
An estimated 15 million visitors come to Arizona each year for vacations, conventions and sporting events such as the Fiesta Bowl, pro golf tournaments and baseball spring training. The state tourism office estimates that conventions and other tourism-related activity brought in $16.6 billion in 2009 and that 157,200 people were employed in industry.