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State’s Tough, New Immigration Law - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Business Leaders are Concerned About the Repercussions the State’s Tough, New Immigration Law Will Have on Arizona’s Still Struggling Economy

Opponents of Arizona’s toughest-in-the-nation immigration law charge that it is unconstitutional and will lead to racial profiling, specifically targeting Hispanics. Supporters counter that the state statute corresponds with federal law and is designed to deal with those who break the law by entering the country illegally. Caught in the crossfire is Arizona’s fragile economy.

Regardless of where one falls on the SB 1070 debate, there is no doubt that it is having negative repercussions on the state’s economy. How severe those repercussions will be is unknown, and Valley and state business leaders are working hard to head off any further damage.

“It’s a negative and it’s not helping us,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

The Phoenix City Council was told the city alone could lose up to $90 million in hotel and Phoenix Convention Center business over the next five years. At press time, city officials were monitoring at least 19 upcoming events, including some that already had pulled the plug on Phoenix, said Deputy City Manager Dave Kreitor.

Last month, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to prohibit its local government from doing business in Arizona unless the immigration law is repealed. There are estimates that the L.A. boycott could affect up to $8 million worth of contracts with Arizona. About two-dozen groups already have pulled events from Arizona, which tourism officials say has cost the tourism industry millions of dollars.

SB 1070
On April 23, Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law, making it a crime under state statute to be in the country illegally. Wording in the original law directed local police to question people they had made “lawful contact” with about their immigration status if there was reason to suspect they were illegal. Amendments to the law days after Brewer signed it included changing “lawful contact” to “lawful stop, detention or arrest”; and adding that officers cannot base their reasonable suspicion on race, color or national origin. The law goes into effect on July 29.

Although boycotts already have begun impacting the state’s tourism industry, Brewer said she has no intention of backing down. The state had to act, she said, because the federal government failed to secure the border with Mexico.

In a statement titled “Misguided Boycott,” Brewer said that when she signed the legislation, “I stated clearly I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.”

In response to a question about what Brewer can and will do to turn around the spread of boycotts and meeting cancellations, the Governor’s Office released this statement: “Governor Brewer will continue to aggressively oppose economic boycotts as a thoughtless effort that harms innocent families and businesses. Both proponents and adversaries of SB 1070 in Arizona have come out in staunch opposition to an economic boycott, including most recently Congresswoman (Ann) Kirkpatrick and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.”

Brewer went a step further in May when she announced the formation of a task force charged with rebranding the state as a tourist destination. Brewer said it was time to “get the truth out there” about the law.

Meanwhile, polls taken before and after the law’s passage show Arizonans’ support of the statute is fluctuating. A Rasmussen poll taken a week before the law was signed showed 70 percent of residents supported the measure. A survey taken a week after the law was signed showed support dropping to 52 percent. National polls have consistently shown strong support for the law.

“When you think of Arizona now, you think of this immigration law.  That’s not the first thing you want people to think of.” – Barry Boome, Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Threat to tourism
Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, released a statement saying the tourism industry is “deeply concerned about the repercussions that will result from the debate around Senate Bill 1070.”

The statement from Johnson, who also leads the Valley Hotel & Resort Association and the Arizona Tourism Alliance, continued: “Arizona tourism is currently in a very fragile state of recovery and the negative perceptions surrounding this legislation are tarnishing Arizona’s image and could easily have a devastating effect on visitation to our state.”

Any loss of business negatively impacts the tourism industry and “directly affects the paychecks and health benefits of our most vulnerable tourism employees as well as their families,” Johnson added. She also stated that the tourism industry provides 200,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in tax revenues to state, city and county budgets.

Kristen Jarnagin, communications director for the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, said that as of the first week of May, 23 groups had cancelled meetings in Arizona, resulting in a loss of up to $10 million.

One group that pulled out is the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which canceled a fall conference in Scottsdale. Another is the African-American Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., which was supposed to hold its convention in Downtown Phoenix in July, bringing an estimated 5,000 attendees and as many as 10,000 visitors. Instead, it’s going to Las Vegas.

Corporate impact
Some Arizona companies also are feeling the sting generated by the controversy. Some opponents of the law are urging people not to fly Tempe-based US Airways or to rent trucks from Phoenix-based U-Haul.

Even the state’s professional sports teams have been affected. Pickets urging a boycott of Arizona took place outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago when the Arizona Diamondbacks were playing the Cubs there. In addition, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), has called on Major League Baseball to pull the scheduled 2011 All-Star game out of Phoenix.

Derrick Hall, president and CEO of the Diamondbacks, said he was concerned, but noted that planning for the game has advanced to the point where “it would be difficult to back off … for 2011.” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been ignoring the boycott calls.

Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver stepped into the middle of the debate in May, by announcing that the team would wear its “Los Suns” jerseys in recognition of playing on Cinco de Mayo. Then he added that “frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law.”

But has the federal government’s failure to secure the border with Mexico cost Arizona business? Some of the state’s top economic development experts say no. Shortly after the law was signed, Broome of GPEC said he had never heard of any businesses that were considering relocating to Arizona expressing concerns about the state’s porous border with Mexico.

“In our discussions with companies looking to move to Arizona, we want to begin and end with good things — the emergence of (Arizona State University), quality of life and a talented work force,” Broome said. “The biggest hardship is on the brand. When you think of Arizona now, you think of this immigration law. That’s not the first thing you want people to think of.”

David Drennon, director of communications for the Arizona Department of Commerce, agreed with Broome that the flow of illegals across the border has been a non-factor in business relocation decisions.

“Actually, the proximity to Mexico is advantageous, giving businesses access to markets in Mexico and even South America,” Drennon said
As Arizona’s No. 1 trading partner, Mexico imported $4.5 billion worth of Arizona products such as semiconductor chips, machinery and plastics in 2009, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce.

What needs to happen next, Broome said, is for business and government leaders to clearly communicate the law’s intention.

“This law was signed without a clear understanding of how we are going to get involved in a communications strategy,” he said. “People need to understand that this is a law that mirrors federal law. That’s been lost.”

While the experts say the illegal flow of immigrants into Arizona has not chased away relocating companies, the storm over the new law is causing some out-of-state corporate anxiety.

Laura Shaw, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO), noted that officials with two major relocation prospects for the Tucson area say they are concerned about the uproar the immigration law has sparked.

“But they haven’t said no,” Shaw quickly added. The two prospects are in aerospace and bioscience, and would provide hundreds of jobs.

“Businesses looking to relocate or expand don’t like controversy,” she said.

Politicians, pundits and stars
It was precisely controversy that attracted high-profile celebrities to Arizona, including civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, actor Danny Glover and Colombian singer Shakira. And, in protest, comedian George Lopez canceled an appearance at an Indian casino just south of Phoenix.

As the Arizona bill was making its way through the capitol, the state’s two U.S. senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, announced a 10-point border security plan. Among other things, it calls for deploying 3,000 National Guard troops along the Arizona-Mexico border and permanently adding 3,000 more Custom and Border Protection agents in the state.

McCain, who came out in support of the immigration law, said the current wave of protests and what happened after Arizona voters rejected a paid Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 1990 are completely different.

“One was about honoring a civil rights hero who a majority of Americans held in extremely high esteem,” he said. “The other is about an issue of national security and the security of our citizens, where we have broken borders and are literally overwhelmed with both human smuggling and drugs.”
After the King vote, which was reversed in another election two years later, the NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona. Estimates of lost convention business in the Phoenix area alone topped $190 million.

J.D. Hayworth, a former U.S. congressman and McCain’s opponent in this year’s hotly contested GOP primary, had urged Brewer to sign the law. In 2005, while still in Congress, Hayworth introduced the Enforcement First Act, which focused on border security. The bill did not pass. Hayworth’s press secretary, Mark Sanders, said the former congressman is continuing his efforts to seal the border.

“That’s where we start,” Sanders said. “And no amnesty. No reward for illegal behavior.”

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who represents Southern Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, created an uproar of his own when he called for a boycott of a large chunk of the state’s tourism industry.

In a statement made a few days after the law was passed, Grijalva said, “This is a specifically targeted call for action, not a blanket rejection of the state economy … we are calling on businesses and organizations not to bring their conventions to Arizona until it recognizes civil rights and the meaning of due process. We don’t want to sustain this effort any longer than necessary. It’s about sending a message.”

Boycotting boycotts
James E. Garcia, director of communications for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said his organization does not support the boycotts, but it is concerned about civil rights issues.

“We believe passage of this bill sends a message to the country and world that Arizona is somehow under siege by immigrants,” Garcia said. “That kind of message tells people: don’t start a business in Arizona and don’t be a tourist here.”

David Roderique of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership said the organization had arranged to have several individuals ask Brewer to veto the bill, fearing an economic backlash. After the law was signed, partnership representatives were involved in pitching Phoenix to the Democratic National Committee as the host city for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

“The likelihood of the Democrats coming here now is zero,” Roderique said. “We have a definite concern that this will create a significant economic impact when we can least afford to have another major disruption.”

In May, the Republican National Committee bypassed Phoenix as the host of the 2012 Republican National Convention. AZGOP Chairman Randy Pullen immediately issued a statement saying that many would cite the new immigration law “as one of the reasons that Phoenix was not chosen (and) nothing could be further from the truth. Members of the RNC overwhelmingly support the immigration bill signed … and Republicans from coast-to-coast stand with Arizonans as we fight to secure our border.”

To that end, Roderique noted that if several other states pass similar laws, some of the spotlight might be shifted away from Arizona.

“If we’re not the lone wolf out there and other states are doing this, the feds are going to have to act,” he said. “It should not lie in individual states or individual municipalities to try to enforce immigration laws. We need a comprehensive federal reform package.”

At the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, Doug MacKenzie, director of communications, said it was “misguided to bring the tourism industry into the crosshairs of this political issue.”

The CVB, which is trying to dissuade groups from considering boycotts, stated that “we may never know the full impact that all the publicity surrounding the passage” of SB 1070 will have on decisions by visitors and organizations choosing convention sites.

Michael Stawiarski, president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, released a statement from the organization’s national president, Bruce MacMillan, blasting the boycotts: “Using travel boycotts as a political weapon in Arizona (or anywhere) only hurts the local communities and the 200,000 workers in the state that benefit from the meeting and event industry.”

gpec.org | azhla.com | aila.org | azcommerce.com | treoaz.org | azhcc.com | visitphoenix.com | tucsonchamber.org

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010

White House Goes Green

Green News Roundup – White House Goes Green, Eco Month & More

Welcome to the second installment of our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about Eco Month, the Sustainability Consortium, solar windows and more. Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

2010 Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference
The second annual Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference is just around the corner, taking place March 18th-20th at the South Building in the Phoenix Convention Center. The expo will feature more than 200 exhibitors featuring the latest in green design, architecture, green products and more. Also, learn more about sustainability from the 2010 conference speakers by registering for sessions here.

2010 AIA Arizona Eco Month
March is Eco Month for AIA Arizona, and they are heading up lots of related events, including a Green Shopping Tour at Phoenix Public Market March 20. Read the AIA’s 20 steps to shopping green in a pdf here and e-mail Diana Smith at diana@aia-arizona.org to RSVP for Eco Month events.

Grocery Retailer Adds Force to ASU’s Green Efforts
Safeway is the first U.S.-based retail grocery chain to join the Sustainability Consortium, administered by ASU and the University of Arkansas. Safeway plans to use the data from the consortium’s Life Cycle Assessment, which analyzes emissions, waste and the natural resources used in food and non-food items, to create its supply chain sustainability policy.

New Solar Windows Appear Blinged Out
A research consortium wants us to stop wasting energy with plain glass windows on office buildings – they’re designing a prototype for solar windows! It only makes sense to utilize the large surface area of the sides of buildings instead of only the roofs. An additional perk? The solar windows would prevent the glare during morning and evening hours, providing natural light all day long without having to draw the blinds!

White House Replaces Bush-Era Cups
This week, even the White House is going green with brand new, eco-friendly hot beverage cups. Twelve percent of the cup and 99 percent of the interior liner are made from post-consumer recycled content. If only they’d tell us where they got them!

Canada vs. USA Final Made Power Consumption Jump by Around 600 Megawatts in Ontario
Are major sporting events bad for the environment? Apparently so. Ontario experienced a major power consumption jump during the Olympic hockey gold medal showdown as everyone turned on their televisions to watch.


Who To Watch: John Chan

John Chan
Interim Director
Phoenix Convention Center

Despite a slumping economy, the newly expanded Phoenix Convention Center experienced a phenomenon expressed some years ago in a movie — “If you build it they will come.”

Indeed, convention delegates came in record numbers in 2009, attracted by the usual Phoenix amenities, including weather and reasonable prices. A new attraction was the convention center itself, which underwent a $600 million expansion project that was completed in December 2008, and tripled the size of meeting and exhibition space.

But John Chan, interim director of the Phoenix Convention Center, sees the recession taking a bite out of convention business in 2010. Looking ahead, Chan says the industry is moving into a tentative mode. Some groups are delaying making decisions on conventions because they don’t have a firm count on delegates. Businesses are deciding to send fewer people, and convention planners are opting against adding an extra day for a possible trip to the Grand Canyon, Chan says.

Still, Chan thinks the scheduled opening in mid-2010 of nearby CityScape, a multiuse project of restaurants and retail amenities that convention delegates always look for, and the existence of light rail service, will make Phoenix that much more desirable — even as the recession puts a crimp in business travel.

“We opened the new convention center during this down economy, and yet, during the last fiscal year we welcomed record numbers of convention delegates into the building,” Chan says. “The reason — most of the business was booked two to three years ago, while it was still under construction.”

In addition, the 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel opened one block from the center.

“Those two events merged to set the stage for the current fiscal year,” Chan says.

Last fiscal year, which ended June 30, saw 276,000 convention delegates enter the center, compared to only 104,000 the previous year, a rousing 160 percent increase.

In a sign that the struggling economy won’t negatively impact the convention industry as much as some fear, in the first three months of the current fiscal year the center already had received 220,000 visitors. Healthy numbers were spurred by major conventions held by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Best Western International, and a volleyball festival. Best Western held a dinner for 2,400, and earlier, the National Rifle Association staged a banquet for 6,000, the largest sit-down dinner ever in Arizona, according to Chan.

He credits the surge in attendance to the expanded convention center’s ability to provide space for groups of 10,000 to 15,000. What’s more, the design of the building enables the city to host several conventions and groups simultaneously. The Phoenix Convention Center has nearly 900,000 square feet of rentable space and a total of more than 2 million square feet. The increased size has moved Phoenix from the 69th-largest convention center in the U.S. to the top 20.

“It is definitely meeting our expectations,” says Chan, who previously served as Downtown Development Director for the city of Phoenix. “We’re able to host groups we were not able to handle before expansion, and they’re talking about coming back — getting them as part of the rotation. That speaks to good customer service and the quality of food and beverage. It has really put Phoenix on the map of the meeting/planning industry.”

www.phoenix.gov/conventioncenter

Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010

Recycling Bins

Green News Roundup-Greener Building, Education & More

For those of you involved in the green/sustainability arena, you are probably still decompressing from the impressive event that was the Greenbuild 2009 Conference and Expo that was held last week. With over 27,000 attendees, the Phoenix Convention Center, Chase Field, local businesses, and the entire community were host to a remarkable event.

Produced by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the conference aimed to bring leading minds, businesses, and the community together around the premise of green building, education, and professional networking.

During my time visiting the impressive conference, some of the following thoughts came to me:

  • The Gargantuan Expo: The expo (which was an exhausting feat to see all of it in detail) was filled with an incredible array of vendors showcasing their particular products that contribute to green buildings and lifestyles. There are – it is not a stretch to say – innumerable creative manners in which a business or individual may contribute towards a “greener” building, property, and subsequent environment.
  • Intellectual Development and Discussion: There were several intriguing presentations by industry experts, academic researchers, community members, and perspicacious interdisciplinary practitioners. The presentations that blended elements of “green” building/design with a social cohesion element had particular merit.
  • Keynote Speeches: Nobel prize laureate Al Gore gave the keynote address on Wednesday evening at Chase field. While much of Mr. Gore’s speech was information that many of the participants may have already heard via self subscription to the “green” lifestyle, he did offer a particularly compelling charge to the audience. It was a call to arms advocating that the audience move beyond discussing green tactics and immediately work to make a substantive difference, now.

Given the participation of the conference, I would challenge each individual to consider some of the following points:

  • How do we, as individuals who have a particular interest in this field (and its success), bring the tenants of green building to those who need it most? What are the ways in which we are enabling and setting up our communities – of all socioeconomic and demographic representation – for success? Are the technologies and methods we recommend commensurate with a practical application to those who need it most?
  • What are the implications of the commoditization of green building ideals? While there are too many integrated issues to list here, how could the exhibitors at the Greenbuild expo make a difference in areas of abject poverty and subsistence-level construction (i.e. the applicability and practicality of technology towards the greater good)?
  • Given the awesome level of experience and mental aptitude that accompanies these conferences, what type of demonstrable impact can they have on the community in which they are held?

I’d love your thoughts, reactions, and recommendations on what you thought of Greenbuild and how to make conferences, like this one, better in the future.

Panel of MPI Students

The Meetings Industry Is On The Offensive To Counter Negative Perceptions

When individuals and organizations meet, solutions are created, ideas are shared, business initiatives are crafted and skills are learned. Such meetings are crucial to North American business success, even more so in a dynamic, faltering, global economy. In an increasingly faceless world, effective human connections are a powerful business weapon.

The EventView 2009 study reveals that for the fourth year in a row senior sales and marketing executives in North America believe meetings and events have the highest ROI of any marketing channel. EventView is produced through a collaboration of the Meeting Professionals International Foundation, the Event Marketing Institute (EMI) and the marketing agency George P. Johnson (GPJ). EventView is the meetings industry’s longest-running global report on event marketing trends.

“This first report of the 2009 series shows that CMOs (chief marketing officers) and senior marketers believe events are the most effective medium to engage customers and move them to purchasing behavior,” says Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI. “While we’ve seen event marketing mature as an effective marketing channel for several years, the benefits become heightened in an uncertain economy. Marketing decision makers have clearly taken notice.”

Of the company executives questioned in the 2009 Business Leader Survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), 82 percent say they believe business travel is important to achieving their businessresults.

“It’s a classic trade-off between short-term cost reductions and long-term value,” says Daniel Diermeier, a professor at the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University. “During times like these, many companies will go too far, and actually cut back on the activities that would best position them to compete in the future.”

Another study from USTA shows that 87 percent of Americans who have attended an out-of-town meeting or convention for work say it is important to running a strong business. Meetings are far more than a collection of speeches or talking points. They are an opportunity for people of similar interests to come together and share their stories about how they are coping, as well as what they are doing to increase business, says leadership coach John Baldoni, who writes the Leadership at Work blog for Harvard Business Publishing.

Meetings and events are also strategic tools that deepen employee relationships and contribute to the overall health of companies. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, a 5 percent increase in employee retention can generate a 25 percent to 85 percent increase in profitability. Travel events show employees they are valued. If employees are only committed to the paycheck, their allegiance can be compromised when they are offered a higher salary elsewhere.

Additionally, meetings and events are essential to motivating sales forces, rewarding high performers, communicating new company initiatives and attracting top talent. According to a 2008 study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, responsible, well-designed and well-executed meetings and training sessions have yielded significant benefits. Such benefits include improved company culture, increased employee retention and more highly engaged and satisfied employees. These companies generate better overall returns in the stock market, with firms on the list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For earning up to five times as much return as their competitors.

According to USTA, business travel in general has become a $240 billion industry due to the real value and measurable benefits derived from the collaboration and cooperation that can only occur when people meet face-to-face.

Phoenix, which covers 517 square miles, is the fifth-largest city in the country with a population of more than 1.57 million people. The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau (GPCVB) has accreditation from the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program, an international accreditation program developed by the Washington, D.C.-based Destination Marketing Association International.

“We are pleased to be recognized in the destination-marketing community for providing outstanding services in accordance with international standards and benchmarks in this field,” says Steve Moore, president and CEO of the GPCVB.

Unfortunately, adds Brent DeRaad, executive vice president of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, “the positive Arizona attributes we worked so hard to promote as a business destination are being used to portray Arizona in a less positive light. Our meeting planners are telling us they’re hard pressed to ‘sell’ our destination up the chain of command since there is a perception that the Valley is a hotbed of negative media activity, as well as a desirable leisure destination. Regardless of our state-of-the-art meetings facilities, easy air accessibility and the great values our resorts are extending, we’re losing business to destinations facing less scrutiny.”

Since October 2008, four national news stories have featured TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) recipients or federally funded organizations holding meetings at resorts. Three out of the four meetings scrutinized on the national stage were held at Phoenix-Scottsdale properties. As a result, planners charged with staging legitimate, privately funded meetings are fearful to bring them to Arizona and are canceling and downsizing programs. In fact, ArizonaGuide.com reports that some planners are willing to spend more to host their meetings in alternate destinations that are not receiving negative media scrutiny and are not perceived as leisure markets.

In a June letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), asked for assistance to reverse an informal federal policy prohibiting and discouraging government meetings and conferences in cities that are too leisure oriented. Emanuel agreed by saying “federal policy should not dictate the location where such government events are held. Our view on the issue of government travel is not focused on specific destinations, but rather on the justification for and the cost-benefit ratio of the individual exercise.”

The USTA declares that companies receiving taxpayer dollars need to be responsible, transparent and accountable. To that end, the travel community has developed a clear meetings-and-events policy these companies should adopt. Although this policy is intended for companies receiving emergency lending from the federal government, other companies interested in adopting these guidelines may choose to alter metrics based upon industry size, company size and market sector. The general USTA policy statement says “the CEO shall be responsible for implementing adequate controls to assure that meetings, events and incentive/recognition travel organized by the company serve legitimate business purposes and are cost justified.”

USTA President and CEO Roger Dow says “… corporate and government meetings have come under attack in the media and among some members of Congress seeking to portray meetings as excessive and unnecessary. The net effect has been cancellation of thousands of meetings, the termination of tens of thousands of jobs and the loss of billions of dollars of spending for the American economy.”

According to MeetingsMeanBusiness.com, each meeting and event traveler spends an average of $1,000 per trip.

“(Travel for business meetings and events) drives the whole hospitality industry in America, and that industry isn’t fat cats; it’s waiters and dishwashers, maids and cooks, event staff and hotel clerks — blue-collar workers who belong to unions,” writes New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. Investor’s Business Daily columnist Kathy E. Read adds, “Those who get hammered — the reservation clerks, maids, baggage handlers, waiters and tour guides — are the little guys and gals whom (President) Obama’s stimulus package is supposed to put back to work.”

The tourism industry is one of Arizona’s largest revenue generators. The Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) reports that in 2008, the state hosted 37.4 million visitors, including 32.4 million domestic and 5 million international travelers. AOT Director Sherry Henry explains that although the combined visitation equates to a net decrease of 3.3 percent, or 1.2 million fewer visitors from 38.6 million in 2007, the travel and tourism industry is resilient and continues to generate billions of dollars for the state’s economy.

Based on Arizona Department of Revenue data, gross sales for four key sectors of the meeting and travel industry are down 13 percent year-to-date as of May 2009, with corresponding state tax collections down almost 14 percent.

“Arizona’s visitor spending brought in $18.5 billion in direct travel expenditures in 2008, underscoring the fact that the travel and tourism industry is a major economic driver for our economy,” Henry says. “In the wake of our current economic situation, our industry brings revenue into the state that supports the quality of life of all Arizona residents.”

Last year, visitor spending generated $2.6 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues. Furthermore, the tourism industry is critical to both job creation and revenue generation for the state, supporting nearly 170,000 jobs and generating $5 billion in direct earnings.

According to Henry, unlike other industries, taxes generated by travel industry spending are paid by visitors rather than residents. These visitors bring new money to Arizona’s economy and generate revenue in all 15 counties, validating the economic importance the travel and tourism industry has across the entire state.

The Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association (AzHLA) conducted a poll of select members in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area and determined that canceled or downsized meetings have resulted in lost revenue easily topping $100 million — equating to a minimum of $11 million in tax revenues not funneling to city and state budgets or critical public programs such as education.

“Meetings account for more than 70 percent of most resort revenues,” says Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO, Debbie Johnson. “When we lose those revenues, all Arizona taxpayers suffer; our pools are closing early, we’re losing our precious teachers and we’ll likely face a tax increase on the next ballot election. Many of those issues could have been avoided with the tax revenues from those lost visitors.”

www.eventmarketing.com
www.mpiweb.org
www.tia.org
www.visitphoenix.com
www.experiencescottsdale.com
www.azot.gov
www.azhla.com