08 January 2011
Last spring Arizona’s state legislators enacted a controversial law to deter
undocumented immigrants from crossing the state’s borders and punish those who
have crossed the U.S. border. Thus far, however, the most significant result of the act, S.B. 1070, has been
to deter other Americans from crossing the state’s borders and to punish the
pocketbooks and coffers of Arizona workers and businesses.
A recent report found that the cancellations of convention and meeting bookings passage of the law provoked has already resulted in the loss of $45 million dollars in direct lodging revenues to the state’s hotel industry.
But the report, “Stop the Conference: The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Conference Cancellations Due to Arizona’s S.B. 1070, said the lodging-revenue losses were just one part of a much more extensive economic storm buffeting the state, whose tourism industry is a major source of income for its citizens and tax revenues for its treasury.
For example, the report says that when such other ancillary revenues that hotel stays produce in direct spending by conference attendees– such as for meals, entertainment, taxis and limousines, and sundry retail buying – the damage done comes to another $141 million.
And yet, the report finds that the damage is even more extensive: nearly 2,800 jobs those lost conferences and meetings would have supported; more than $86 million in lost wages and more than $9 million in tax revenues those jobs would have produced; and a total lost economic output of $253 million.
The report was commissioned by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., which has opposed Arizona’s law. It hired a prominent Arizona economic polling firm, Elliott D. Pollack & Company, to undertake the study.
Its results were disparaged by Russell Pearce, the Arizona legislature’s Republican Senate President, and chief sponsor of S.B. 1070. The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association stated in August that the state had lost at least 40 conventions and $15 million in lodging revenue – a dollar figure the CAP study claims is based on a very narrow accounting of the losses.
This week Kristen Jernigan, a spokeswoman for the association, said that while the bookings for conventions and meetings had taken a hit, “we feel pretty positive “that the vacation travel of individuals and families to the state has not been significantly affected by the controversy.
For all the stunning dollar figures in the CAP report, its focus was limited to examining the impact of lost convention bookings. It did not consider the law’s impact on such other areas as vacation travel or business development.
The fact that the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of S.B. 1070 next year will certainly revive the controversy over its passage, and may well provoke a fresh round of cancellations of convention and meeting bookings within the state, deepening the damage already done. The CAP report did state that the total potential losses from future convention cancellation could add up to $750 million or more.