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Arizona Tourism Damage Feared by Some From King Day Cancellation With AM-Brotherhood March,

January 25, 1987

Arizona Tourism Damage Feared by Some From King Day Cancellation With AM-Brotherhood March, Bjt

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ Tourism officials disagree whether a boycott stemming from Gov. Evan Mecham’s cancellation of Arizona’s Martin Luther King holiday will have a major impact on the state’s travel-dependent economy.

An organizaton 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 Jan. 12 action.

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.

Mecham’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. Former Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt had ordered observance of the holiday last year.

″It depends on how long this goes on,″ Teye said. ″If it goes on for a long time, it could have a snowballing effect.″

Tourism ″really depends on image,″ Teye said. ″People only know what they read and hear and are not likely to visit an area that has a negative image in their mind.″

John Marks, president of the Phoenix and Valley of the Sun Convention Bureau, said Friday 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 of as many as 10,000 people, he said.

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. Mecham also has questioned whether King deserved a holiday. He refused last week to comment on the boycott effort.

″I have no comment on anything relating to a King holiday. Period. ... I just don’t want to,″ Mecham said.

Victor Heller, Mecham’s newly appointed state tourism director, said the state’s tourism industry does not heavily rely on conventions.

″We are dealing primarily with individuals,″ he said, adding that there is ″only one Grand Canyon, and people are still going to want to see it.″

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