Bryan Adams canceled his concert in Mississippi in protest against what he called an “anti-L.G.B.T.” law, and Sharon Stone decided not to film there. In North Carolina no less than, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam and Ani DiFranco have already canceled shows in response to a law regulating transgender bathroom access.
The celeb response is drawing attention, but it’s the travel industry in each state that is more concerned about the everyday tourists who have already begun canceling trips or planning trips elsewhere.
In Georgia, widespread protest from corporate America, particularly the entertainment industry, proved crucial in killing its own religious freedom bill. On March 28, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed House Bill 757 following opposition from studios like Disney and Marvel. The state, which is the third-most popular shooting location in the U.S., is home to major franchises like The Hunger Games, Iron Man and Ant-Man, all of which have been filmed in the state. Often called the “Hollywood of the South” or “Y’allywood,” Georgia’s film industry brought in a reported $5 billion last year.
But according to the New York Times, North Carolina and Mississippi’s tourism are suffering big time,
Both states have been hit by hotel cancellations from tourists who spend a combined tens of billions of dollars annually, and though the effect is difficult to quantify so early on, local hotels, tourist boards, industry associations and government officials fear that a boycott will continue to dampen business. Making matters tougher for the businesses, the Foreign Office in Britain has issued an advisory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers going to the two states based on the laws.
The effect is already being felt in North Carolina, which last month passed a law that limits transgender people to using bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates. Tourism is a crucial driver of the economy in the state, the sixth most-visited in the country, where domestic travelers spent a record $21.3 billion in 2014, according to Visit North Carolina, the state’s tourist board.
In Charlotte, which has a large convention center, more than 20 conventions have either canceled or are no longer considering holding their event in the state, resulting in a loss so far of around $2.5 million, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Travel industry executives and officials in North Carolina and in Mississippi are attempting to counter the message that they say the legislation delivers. Mr. Hughes on April 12 introduced the Mississippi Economic Tourism and Recovery Act to the House, which would prevent businesses and individuals from discriminating against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Marriott International’s president and chief executive, Arne Sorenson, is one of several heads of hospitality companies who have signed an open letter to Gov. McCrory of North Carolina asking for the repeal of the bathroom law. That letter was written by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, and Equality North Carolina, the state organization working to secure equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.
The Mississippi travel industry is also expressing a welcoming attitude in dealing with the effects of the bill that was passed there on March 30. Linda G. Hornsby of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association said:
“The first thing we did after the bill was passed was to put up a banner on our website that says, ‘Everyone Is Welcome Here,’ because that’s how we feel. This law is not what Mississippi is about.”
As they say, good luck with that. Change your laws to stop the hemorrhaging. Until then, boycott Mississippi and North Carolina.
(Photo, AP; via The New York Times)