Arizona meetings are getting support from hospitality industry leaders, including the U.S. Travel Association, which has called for an end to the convention boycott called in response to the controversial new immigration law, S.B. 1070. Meanwhile, several more meetings have reportedly been canceled in Arizona, and the man behind the boycott, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has not softened his stance.
"We call for an end to counterproductive Arizona travel boycotts,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO at U.S. Travel, in a press release. “Immigration reform is an important and sensitive topic for Arizona and the country at large,” said Dow. “This complex issue should be resolved on the merits of various proposals, not by holding an industry and its 300,000 employees hostage to politics.”
Added Dow: "We need to protect this critical aspect of our economy and reward hard-working Americans instead of proposing boycotts that will lead to job losses and economic hardship for families and local communities. It is inappropriate to punish the men and women of our industry who have done no harm to others.” >p> The American Hotel and Lodging Association also supports meetings and travel to Arizona, and has announced that its annual Summer Summit, scheduled for June 15–16 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, will continue as planned. “We do not support in any way a boycott of one of Arizona’s biggest industries, because these ill-advised actions hurt the state’s 1,110 lodging properties and their 52,000 employees and their families,” said AH&LA officials in a statement. “Attempting to score political points on a serious issue like immigration reform by hurting the livelihood of thousands of our employees is not a constructive way to solve one of the nation’s most vexing issues. “
However, according to an article in the Arizona Republic, six groups have canceled meetings in Arizona since the law passed. One early defector was the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which pulled its fall meeting out of Scottsdale. Then on April 29 the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the oldest integrated and historically black Greek-lettered organization in the world, announced that it was moving its 10,000 attendee convention, set for July 21–25, from Phoenix to Las Vegas. “It was the full opinion of the board that we could not host a meeting in a state that has sanctioned a law which we believe will lead to racial profiling and discrimination, and a law that could put the civil rights and the very dignity of our members at risk during their stay in Phoenix, Arizona,” said Herman “Skip” Mason, the fraternity’s national general president, in a release.
Do You Understand?
In a letter to Rep. Grijalva, Andrea Gold, president of Tucson, Ariz.–based Gold Star Speakers Bureau and the Meetings Community listserv (MeCo) moderator, asked him to find another way to make his point. “You are dragging politics into the world of meetings,” Gold wrote. “Do you understand the ramifications and economic impact of what harm you are doing to your own constituents and state residents and businesses? Meetings are a positive force for good, for information, for growth, for job creation, and for human connections.”
Adam Sarvana, Grijalva’s communications director, said the congressman is sensitive to the concerns of the meetings industry and feels that it is “unfortunate that this is the way the message has to get sent.” Grijalva believes that asking conference organizers to boycott the state is an effective way to send a message without calling for a boycott all aspects of the state’s economy.
“The whole point is to get the law overturned,” said Sarvana. “As soon as that happens, I would imagine that he would declare that this [boycott] isn’t necessary anymore.”
Sarvana said the idea to ask conference organizers to boycott the state came from an earlier Arizona controversy over the Martin Luther King Day holiday. When the National Football League and others said they wouldn’t hold events in Arizona until the holiday was recognized, it had a real impact, said Sarvana. What Grijalva drew from that was that “an economic vehicle is the best way to make your point, for better or worse, so this is how he has chosen to go about it.
“While [Grijalva] absolutely understands what’s going on with the state and national economy, he feels that there is another national question of equal importance at stake and civil rights can’t take a back seat this time,” said Sarvana.
Grijalva has not yet contacted any groups regarding meetings in Arizona, but he plans to do outreach in the coming weeks, said Sarvana, unless the law is overturned, there is a federal injunction, or enough groups come forward that he feels the point has been made.