published Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Atlanta tourism agency opposes immigration bill

ATLANTA—Georgia’s tough new immigration bill threatens to harm Atlanta’s reputation as a welcoming city, leaders of the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau said.

The bureau’s executive committee unanimously voted to pass a resolution Friday saying the bill is “unwelcoming” and could “tarnish Atlanta’s reputation as one of America’s most welcoming cities.”

“The loss of potential revenues associated with conventions and tourism would have an adverse effect on Atlanta’s economy and the businesses and employees directly and indirectly associated with Atlanta’s hospitality industry,” the resolution states.

William Pate, the bureau’s president, told the committee before its vote Friday that some of the bureau’s convention customers have called to ask about the legislation, but none have canceled their events, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“There is obviously a lot of concern about the potential impact this legislation could have on our industry because of the situation in Arizona,” Pate told the committee.

A representative of the Convention and Visitors Bureau said no one was available to speak about the issue Friday.

The bill passed the Legislature this month, and is awaiting Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature. Deal has said he plans to sign the bill.

The bill is “a workable solution that enforces the rule of law and protects Georgia taxpayers while upholding individuals’ constitutional rights,” Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, said in a statement Friday.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey, of Peachtree City, told the Journal-Constitution in an email that “I strongly disagree with the notion that Georgia’s economic prosperity will suffer because we chose to stand up for the rule of law.“

In Savannah, tourism officials also have been paying attention to the issue.

“The trickle-down effect to meetings and conventions that happen in Savannah could be a big concern,” Visit Savannah President Joe Marinelli told the Savannah Morning News recently.

Marinelli said a committee considering several cities for an upcoming conference might use the immigration law as a way of narrowing its choice.

“If groups see this as being negative, it will impact us,” Marinelli told the Morning News.

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