PHOENIX — Tourism officials are watching to see whether an informal boycott stemming from Gov. Evan Mecham's cancellation of Arizona's observance of the holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will have a major impact on the state's travel-dependent economy.
An organization of black newspaper publishers and a Democratic Party committee already have canceled meetings in Arizona and a tourism official said at least two other groups have expressed concern over Mecham's canceling the holiday observed this year on Jan. 19.
Jackson Cancels Trip
Singer Stevie Wonder has said he will boycott the state, and a spokesman for the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Jackson canceled a trip to Arizona he had planned for last week.
The Republican governor's cancellation of the state holiday creates a potential for long-term damage to the state's tourism industry, said Victor Teye, professor of leisure studies at Arizona State University.
"It depends on how long this goes on," Teye said. "If it goes on for a long time, it could have a snowballing effect."
John Marks, president of the Phoenix and Valley of the Sun Convention Bureau, said that at least two organizations planning or considering conventions here have expressed concern over the issue. One of the groups is the National Baptist Convention of America, which is considering Phoenix for its 1989 meeting, which could draw as many as 10,000 people, he said.
Brings 200,000 Jobs
Tourism is Arizona's second largest industry, accounting for an estimated 200,000 jobs, Marks said. He said 14 million people who visit Arizona each year contribute about $4 billion to the state's economy. Convention business contributed about $300 million to the economy of the Phoenix metropolitan area last year.
Teye and Marks said Mecham's proposal to let the state's voters instead of the Legislature decide whether Arizona should have a King holiday could be even more damaging if the voters rejected the idea.
"Should it go to a vote of the people and not pass, it would send out a very negative message," Marks said. "And that could be much more damaging to the image of the state."
Mecham has said that he rescinded the holiday because it was declared illegally, a view supported by a state attorney general's opinion.