Tourism & Convention Leaders Gather In Austin, Warn Of SB6’s Dire Economic Consequences

By Megan Clayton • January 12, 2017 • 4:22 pm

Leaders in the tourism, convention and meeting planning industries met in Austin Wednesday to speak out about Senate Bill 6, a North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” that would ban transgender people from using restrooms in public places and would overturn local laws that protect transgender people from discrimination.

If passed, the bill would have catastrophic economic consequences and could irreparably damage the Lone Star State’s national reputation. That’s why representatives from convention and visitors’ bureaus in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Arlington, and Fort Worth were out in force today, as were officials from the Professional Convention Management Association, the American Society of Association Executives, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, and TechNet, a trade group that represents some of the country’s leading technology companies.

These groups are speaking out because the effects of SB 6 could, simply put, devastate their industry. Texas brings in nearly $69 billion annually directly from travel spending, as well as billions more from associated industries, like the food and beverage industry. That makes Texas’ tourism economy second only to the oil and gas industry in terms of its contribution to Texas’ $1.4 trillion GSP (Gross State Product). State and local tax revenues from tourism clock in at about $6.2 billion annually, and about 648,000 jobs are tied directly to the industry.

Matt McTighe, Freedom for All Americans’ executive director, lauded these groups for speaking out, and urged Texas lawmakers not to ignore these clear warnings:

“Businesses in Texas aren’t just throwing up red flags over SB 6 — they’re sending explicit messages, with increasing frequency, that this discriminatory measure will fundamentally harm Texas’ economy. Lawmakers in North Carolina ignored similar warning signs, and the state has experienced unprecedented economic backlash as a result. Businesses speaking out against this proposal are the ones who enrich communities, provide good jobs, and help strengthen Texas’ reputation. Dan Patrick and his allies in the legislature should take their advice and avoid economic catastrophe.”

And it’s not just the tourism industry that’s concerned. The effects of SB 6 could spill over into every sector of Texas’ economy. That’s why the Texas Association of Business, which late last year warned that bills like SB 6 could cost Texas $8.5 billion in lost revenue and nearly 200,000 jobs, has launched the Keep Texas Open for Business coalition. More than 1,100 businesses—including Dow Chemical, Apple, IBM, SXSW, Intel, VisitDallas, Celanese, GSD&M, and HP—have signed the Texas Competes pledge so far, affirming their support for a Texas that remains economically competitive and vibrant.

Despite this opposition, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has made SB 6 a top legislative priority. Though with business and other advocacy groups across the state sounding the alarm about its damaging effects, it’s possible SB 6 could quickly be a thing of the past. Currently, Freedom for All Americans is working with our partners at Keep Texas Open for Business and Texas Competes to stop discriminatory bills like SB 6 from advancing in Texas.

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