State Capitol News
1:49 pm
Fri May 14, 2010

Brewer Wants to Re-Brand State Tourism Industry

Phoenix, AZ – In just the first week after the governor signed a tough new law
aimed at illegal immigrants the Arizona hotel and Lodging
Association reported that 19 meetings scheduled for the state
were canceled. That represents more than 15,000 room nights,
with an economic impact of more than $6 million. And the boycott
calls continue. The governor is both unhappy and mystified that
any group would cancel its Arizona meetings. She cited various
national polls which show that a majority of those questioned say
they support the tough new law scheduled to take effect July 29.

(I think there's been some really terrible mistruths said about
our beautiful state. And it has really directly impacted the
tourism industry. Hundreds of thousands of people that work in
that industry and their families. I think that it's important
that we get our message out there and reposition our brand in
Arizona.)

The outcry over the new law stems from a couple of key
provisions. One requires police to check the immigration status
of those they reasonably believe to be in the country illegally.
The other effectively makes being an illegal immigrant a state
crime. Foes of the measure say that will likely lead to racial
profiling, even after the law was amended to specifically
preclude officers from using race, ethnicity or national origin
as a reason for questioning someone. What that new brand will be
in reaction to all this remains unclear. Brewer has put together
a task force of those in the industry to study the issue and met
with them Thursday behind closed doors. The governor said she
gave them a mandate.

(To sit down and try to to put pencil to paper to come up with
solutions so we can figure out exactly what our short-term
messages are going to be and how we're going to be inclusive of
everyone and get the truth out there in regards to Arizona.)

Debbie Johnson, the president of the hotel and lodging
association, had no better idea after the closed-door meeting
with the governor of what that new image might be.

(I think that's what we have to discuss. And I think that was the
unanimous support today of forming this task force and of
understanding the need to really get the messaging out there
about our state. Because we all believe in our state. We love our
state. That's why we live here. And we want to get that message
out.)

Any sort of re-branding is going to come at a cost. Brewer said
she's moving some money from the Department of Commerce budget
over to the state tourism office. But Johnson said a lot more
than the state can afford is going to be necessary -- and that
the businesses that benefit from tourism are going to have to
open their wallets and kick in to the cause. Two things, however,
are not on the table. The first would be to repeal the law before
it is schedule to take effect. Brewer has repeatedly said that's
not an option. And Johnson said no one at the meeting even
suggested that to the governor. The other thing that won't be
considered is a reverse boycott. Brewer acknowledged that
officials in several California cities have passed resolutions
saying they will boycott Arizona businesses. But she won't urge
Arizonans to stay away from those cities.

(I would never, I would never encourage someone to hurt or harm
innocent people.)

And Brewer said she believes that, after the initial reaction
against the law, some of that may now be turning around.

(We have seen people come forward and have recanted on their
statements. And the public is seeing that because they were led
down a path and they hadn't read the bill. And they hadn't
listened. Now they realize that, for lack of a better word, they
kind of stepped in it, and now they're recanting.)

The governor's staffers said one example of that is Marco Rubio,
a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida. He initially said his
state should not enact -- quote -- laws like this -- which he
termed -- quoting again -- far out. But Rubio backtracked,
applauding Brewer for signing the bill and saying he would
support a similar law for his home state. Brewer hopes to have a
report back from the task force in a couple of weeks. For Arizona
Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.