According to a report released this week by the Phoenix Convention Center, SB 1070 has been responsible for a considerable drop in revenue from Arizona’s convention industry. The report cites a loss of $132 million by the industry since 2009.
Convention center bookings for the coming year are down 30 percent from the same time in 2009, and the difference can not be simply attributed to the recent economic downturn. This is because convention center bookings in San Diego, Denver, Salt Lake City and San Antonio are flat or in some cases up over this same time frame.
Tourism is a vital component of Arizona’s state economy, making up the state’s single largest export industry. However, the passage of SB 1070 in 2010 and the subsequent surge of bad publicity for the state, including an official tourism and convention industry boycott, have severely damaged the industry.
Mexican visitors to Arizona have long had an important impact on the state’s economy. According to the most recent Arizona Office of Tourism report on Mexican tourism in Arizona published in December 2008, Mexicans at that time crossed into Arizona 24.04 million times annually. These visitors were directly responsible for 23,400 Arizona jobs, mostly in tourist spending-related sectors such as the restaurant, hospitality and retail fields. The combined annual income of these jobs was cited at over $800 million.
In addition, direct expenditures by Mexican tourists in Arizona also have a tremendous impact on businesses in the state. The total estimated direct expenditure by Mexican visitors to the state in 2008 was $2.69 billion. This expenditure has a significant impact on tax revenue to the state. In Santa Cruz County, along the Arizona-Sonora border, Mexican nationals accounted for an astounding 48.62 percent of all taxable sales. However, even in the larger Pima, Cochise and Maricopa Counties, taxes paid by Mexican visitors made up a significant portion of overall tax revenue.
Although long suspected of being true, the news that SB 1070 is in fact negatively impacting Arizona’s international and domestic tourism industries is a blow to a state that is already suffering financially. Many state leaders are championing an effort to make Arizona more appealing to potential tourists and convention goers. In a recent speech to a group of event planners, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton appealed, “What you may have read about our legislature, don’t hold against the rest of us…The rest of us, we’re normal. We like diversity.”