Have Meeting and Convention Planners Soured on Alabama?

Meeting and convention planners are always looking for new and exciting destinations to take their groups. Talk to any planner about how they select destinations and almost all of them will tell you that they will avoid controversy. Last year the Alabama Legislature enacted, what many say, is a controversial immigration law. Many are comparing it to Arizona and Georgia”s own tough stand on immigration. However with regards to Alabama, many are wondering if the law has gone too far.

According to Wikipedia, the law, known on the books as HB 56, states:

  • that if police have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an immigrant unlawfully present in the United States, to make a similarly reasonable attempt to determine that person”s legal status.
  • that the law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving any public benefits at either the state or local level.
  • that the law prohibits the transporting or harboring of illegal immigrants
  • that it prohibits landlords from renting property to illegal immigrants.
  • that it forbids employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants for any job within Alabama.

Meeting and Convention Planners Avoid Controversial Destinations

There are currently many provisions of the law that are under review by the state legislature. Unfortunately a lot of the provisions that are currently blocked are the ones that might make the most sense. For example, the provision of the law that requires large and small businesses to validate the immigration status of employees is currently being blocked.

A study by Dr. Samuel Addy from the University of Alabama shows that the legislation will be costly for the State. The Addy report as outlined in an Univision news report, found that Alabama could lose about 70,000 to 140,000 jobs, $2.3 billion to $10.8 billion in GDP and $56.7 million to $264.5 million in state income and sales taxes.

Many of the jobs lost will be in the accommodation and food services sector. These jobs will be hard to replace during the current economic crisis. This makes many meeting and convention planners concerned about service levels for their meetings and events.

What also worries many meeting and convention planners about Alabama”s controversial immigration law is what protection do their attendees have in the state. News reports highlighting that a German Mercedes-Benz executive was arrested for not having proper documentation while on business to Alabama do not sit well with meeting and convention planners. Shortly after the story regarding the Mercedes-Benz executive, we also found out that a Japanese Honda executive was stopped for a routine traffic check and was issued a ticket. This in spite of the fact that the Honda executive had a valid passport, an international driving permit and a US work permit to boot.

When you hear horrific experiences such as the ones above, you really have to wonder if Alabama is serious about convention planning. I realize that much of this law is rooted in political pandering. But, at what point do these lawmakers sit back and realize just how silly they are looking to the average person? Seriously, it”s almost as if some of these southern states are more interested in their friends, the corporate lobbyist, then they are at protecting their citizens and encouraging tourism and hence conventions to their state. Unfortunately, it appears, you really don”t need much between your ears to be a politician these days. The sad thing is that they are seriously having an impact on our economic recovery. My advice -vote these bozos out the next election.

The news about business executives being hassled because of the immigration law is in itself enough for most meeting and convention planners to reconsider Alabama as a destination. It should be noted that we did reach out to Tourism Alabama for their feedback regarding any impact (favorably or not) that the immigration law has had on tourism. I did receive a reply from a tourism official that basically said that they had no information to provide me for my article on a state level. Which is a shame considering the beauty that Alabama does have to offer. Normally, Alabama would be an ideal destination to bring your group especially in the cooler winter months that the North experiences. It”s also a shame that politics can have this type of an impact on such a beautiful state. Given the fact that we expect the politicians to actually attract and promote businesses and help grow the economies of the areas that they govern.

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