PHOENIX - There was a time when Arizona's abundance of sunshine was its main tourist attraction, but those days are apparently over.
State officials say the fallout from a controversial immigration law has created a stormy forecast for the tourism industry.
Tourism officials are saying the worst is yet to come.
In fact it could be a couple of years before Arizona feels the full extent of the backlash. The news couldn’t come at a worst time considering the state remains in the grip of a worsening budget crisis.
The numbers are ugly especially for a state renowned for its beauty according to a report from the Arizona Department of Tourism.
Direct travel expenditures decreased by more than ten percent to $16.6 billion in 2009.
There was also a 10.2 percent decline in overnight domestic business travel, reflecting the hard hit meetings and conventions segment.
“But I think in the coming year or two we will probably see the biggest effects because what’s happening right now is that the people who have contracts that they are about to sign or are in negotiations those are the ones who are backing off because they don’t have any penalties they have to pay,” Debbie Johnson said.
Johnson said last year the slump cost the state $167 million in tax revenues along with more than 30,000 jobs. Part of that she says can be attributed to the recession, but another factor is the call for an economic boycott in response to the governor signing SB 1070.
“And while we can disagree about politics I believe tourism shouldn’t play a role in some of the political decisions that are being made and that’s what happened,” Johnson said.
State tourism officials know there is a financial incentive to promote Arizona tourism especially since the state can ill afford shrinking tax revenues.