San Diego Faces Own Medicine as Arizona Residents Cancel Travel Following Boycott of State

Arizona tourists are biting back against San Diego for its city council's decision to boycott the Grand Canyon State over its immigration law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last month.

Would-be tourists have notified the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and some hotels that they are canceling their scheduled travel to the coastal vacation destination, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

According to the newspaper, the convention bureau has received about 25-30 emails from Arizona residents, with some saying they are canceling their reservations and taking their money elsewhere.

That has tourism officials urging Arizonans to consider the resolutions as merely symbolic and local politics at work.

"We're in a very tough environment already because of everything else going on, and we don't need another negative impact to our industry," ConVis President Joe Terzi told the Union-Tribune. "This affects all the hardworking men and women who count on tourism for their livelihoods, so we’re saying, don't do something that hurts their livelihoods."

"I've been approached by a number of hotels who are very concerned because they’ve received cancelations from Arizona guests," Namara Mercer, executive director of the county Hotel-Motel Association, told the newspaper.

Roughly 2 million Arizonans visit San Diego each year but the recession has taken a toll on the hotel industry that was hoping for a comeback this year. Hotels are offering deep discounts to fill up their undersold rooms while the tourism board spends $7 million this spring and summer season to promote travel to the area.

Several councils in large cities like Los Angeles, Austin, Boston and San Francisco have approved boycotts on employee travel or future contracts with Arizona businesses as a result of the law that goes into effect on July 1.  The state tourism bureau has said the losses so far have reached nearly $10 million as a result of 23 canceled meetings.

But others are cautious, noting unintended consequences. Milwaukee’s city council delayed a vote on a boycott and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he opposes such action.

On Saturday, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared with Brewer in Phoenix to criticize President Obama for not passing an immigration law and putting Arizona in the situation where it had to act on its own.

“It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say ‘we’re all Arizonans now, and in clear unity, we say, Mr. President, do your job, secure our borders,’” Palin said.

Palin also has denounced a decision by Highland Park, Ill., officials who canceled the high school girls’ basketball team’s travel to the state in December. Both Highland Park Assistant Superintendent Suzan Hebson and the Austin City Council suggested that their decisions were less based on politics than concern their players and employees could be in harm’s way if they want to Arizona. Hebson, however, told the Chicago Tribune that she did not know if any student players were themselves illegal immigrants.

Palin, a former basketball player, said she would raise money or find other ways to get the players to the tournament.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, school board President Shelia Jackson said she is sorry people don’t want to come to her city, but she still supports her vote to boycott Arizona.

“It’s sad that people would cancel their plans to come here in reaction to that, but I still think we did the right thing,” Jackson told the Union-Tribune. “Certainly, we know how important tourism is to San Diego, and it wasn’t my intent to impact the tourism trade.”