Ariz. officials speak out about immigration boycotts

June 7, 2010 6:57:56 PM PDT
At least 40 conventions have cancelled, others are on the bubble, and there's no way of tracking individuals who have decided not to vacation in Arizona.

That's the assessment of Debbie Johnson, the President and CEO of the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association. Johnson visited San Francisco on Monday and talked about the fallout from Arizona's tough new immigration law and the cities that have called for boycotts.

Cities from Austin to Boston, not just in California are taking stands against Arizona. In the Bay Area they include San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Pablo and tomorrow San Jose's City Council will take a vote.

Johnson says tourism is Arizona's No. 1 or No. 2 industry, depending on the figures you look at.

The state collects $1.5 billion in tax revenues annually. Johnson describes feeling sad, embarrassed and frustrated by the way her state is being portrayed.

"We've been called everything from racist, to ignorant, to selfish," she said.

Johnson is appearing before the California Travel Industry Association's annual convention which is in San Francisco this week and told attendees she thinks the boycotts of her state are hurting the very people who need the most help -- the workers in the tourism industry.

Johnson has heard the cries for a reverse boycott of cities like San Francisco, but does not support that retaliation. Tourism is an $8 billion a year business in San Francisco, and so far no conventions have pulled out.

"It's the wrong thing to do because it doesn't affect your city council that voted to boycott our state. It affects your tourism employees," she said.

"The reality is that those employees, those people they are talking about are people being hurt by this law," San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said.

Campos is author of the city's resolution opposing Arizona's immigration law.

"If Arizona starts boycotting everyone that's boycotting them, they are going to be isolated because its not just San Francisco," he said.

Joe D'Alessandro, the head of San Francisco's Convention and Visitors Bureau says he has received e-mails from Arizona supporters; individuals saying they won't vacation here anymore.

"I've gotten 300-400 e-mails from people around the country saying they won't come to San Francisco on their personal trip or vacation because of the boycott of Arizona," he said.

D'Alessandro says he is opposed to Arizona's immigration law, but does not support travel boycotts over political issues. He doesn't believe they work. But the sponsor of San Francisco's resolution is convinced they do have an impact.

The new law will take effect on July 29.


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