This is also not meant to be a political post, though I fear some will see it that way. I hope you’ll notice that I am deliberately not taking sides. I am not holding up one political persuasion over another. Now that I’ve piqued your interest, I’ll get on with the post.
Arizona’s New Illegal Immigration Law
In the recent weeks you can’t help but hear something on the TV or radio, or read something in print about the new Arizona illegal immigration law and its subsequent fallout. There is an almost visceral reaction about this issue on both sides of the political coin. But what has happened as a result of that law makes me react in a way that is just as strong.
In addition to the usual channels of political discontent, travel is now being used as a weapon to express disagreement with the laws of another state. Many who disagree with Arizona’s law have decided to boycott travel there.
I wonder if those who begin these travel boycotts realize how important the travel industry is to the economy of a city or state? ANY city or state. I wonder if they care? In an economic climate such as we are dealing with today, why would anyone put jobs on the line? Jobs that have nothing to do with a divisive political decision.
Travel = Jobs
Let’s use Arizona to illustrate this point. The Arizona Office of Tourism says that in 2008 direct travel industry employment was 166,900 with earnings of $5 billion. But it doesn’t stop there. Travel has significant impacts on other segments of the economy as well. Segments like retail and restaurants. If you add in all those other segments, the total employment figure is more like 310,000 with a $10.2 billion payroll. Imagine if those people were out of work! Do you think all those out of work people might have an impact on still more sectors of the economy?
But Wait. There’s More
But now this issue is bigger than just Arizona. There are some cities across the country whose city councils are passing official resolutions that boycott the State of Arizona in some way or another. Austin, Columbus, Los Angeles, and Seattle are just a few of the cities that have done this, with more probably to come. As of Friday night, I was made aware of another travel boycott – one on the opposite side of the issue. Now, people who disagree with the actions of these city councils (a.k.a pro Arizona law) are starting travel boycotts of their own against the cities passing these resolutions. It’s as if they are trying to “out boycott” each other.
Visit Seattle is getting a lot of flack on their Facebook page about the Seattle City Council’s decision. The fact is, though, Visit Seattle had absolutely nothing to do with it. Despite that, they are having to deal with this boycott and all the comments about it – in exactly the same way the folks at the Arizona Tourism Office are having to deal with a decision they had nothing to do with.
So let me ask you this. Would you really want to deprive your children (or yourself!) from seeing the Grand Canyon because you don’t agree with a political decision? Really? One of our country’s most famous natural wonders?
Travel brings families together. It can be educational by allowing people to see first-hand where something happened, or by opening your eyes to how other cultures live. It’s relaxing. Hell, it’s fun! Travel is so many things, but it shouldn’t be politicized.
There are countless ways you can express your opinions about the actions of these governmental bodies. Write a letter or make a phone call. Contact your own representatives in Congress and let them know how you feel.
But please, I beg you. Stop using travel as a weapon.
Update (May 25, 2010):
Since first hitting “Publish” on this post a few days ago, I became aware of two more links I wanted to share with you.
The first is a press release from the U.S. Travel Association’s President and CEO, Roger Dow. In this press release Mr. Dow calls for an end to these boycotts, and for us to focus our efforts on resolving the complex issue of immigration reform. And ”not by holding an industry and its 300,000 employees hostage to politics”. Thank you, Mr. Dow. I couldn’t agree more.
The second is an article posted on the Budget Travel website that poses the following question: “Do Travel Boycotts Really Work?”. It’s interesting reading, and I encourage you to do so.