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TravelHaven News Brief – AZ conferences and conventions down due to Immigration Law

The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that hotel industry losses due to the new state immigration law is at least $15 million and may be quadruple that number.

At first some convention and conference sponsors were canceling in protest of the law. More recently, they seem to be avoiding Arizona because of worry that members may decide they’d rather not come to – and spend their money in – Arizona. They don’t want to book a destination that’s going to cause financial risk.

The $15 million figure represents only what the hotels would have collected directly from guests for room and facility rentals. Losses related to convention-goers spending for food, clothing or entertainment while in Arizona would be much higher.

Some of these decisions are influenced by scare stories about illegal immigration, fueled in part by comments by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer about headless bodies found in the desert. Governor Brewer has recently admitted those stories to be untrue, as Arizona law enforcement authorities said all along.

But the biggest issue appears to be that organization members fear being hassled because of the new law. One boy scout leader from Houston who is bringing his troop to the Grand Canyon is concerned because nine of the boys are Hispanic. He doesn’t know if he needs to carry their birth certificates. He’s worried for his kids. And that is after a federal judge barred the state from enforcing key provisions of the law.

Meeting planners, who make money based on convention attendance, have a tendency to be averse to risk. They would much rather relocate a conference than jeopardize the event. It’s easy to book their conference in another state. Some groups reportedly have given up deposits to move their meetings elsewhere.

[This article is based in part on reporting by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services.]