The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association is expected to vote on a resolution supporting the boycott of Arizona later this month - while meeting at Tucson's Westin La Paloma.
NAISA President Robert Warrior said canceling the annual meeting on short notice would almost certainly bankrupt the young group, possibly subject it to a lawsuit from the hotel and result in disbanding the organization.
Twenty other groups have canceled meetings and conferences in Arizona, however, since the signing of the immigration bill, known as SB 1070, said Kristen Jarnagin, vice president of communications for the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association.
That will cost the state between $6 million and $10 million, not including individual travel that's been canceled, such as family vacations, Jarnagin said Tuesday.
Warrior made his comments in an e-mailed letter to members explaining the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association's decision to hold its annual meeting in Tucson despite the group's fundamental disagreement with SB 1072, and another recent Arizona law regarding the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools.
He said NAISA would have been liable for "an amount similar to what the American Immigration Lawyers Association's meeting" cancellation in Scottsdale cost that group. The Arizona Republic reported AILA had to pay $92,000 to cancel that planned fall meeting.
But Warrior said the decision not to cancel the Tucson meeting, which was booked with the Westin La Paloma last summer, was more than an economic decision.
He said four American Indian tribes within Arizona, including the Tohono O'odham, that are hosting the meeting requested that it go on.
Even without canceling, the group may lose money over its decision to hold the meeting in Arizona. Because of the way deals for resort hotel use are structured, the association could be subject to penalties if a significant number of members don't come to the Tucson conference. Typically, the group gets use of meeting rooms and other facilities in return for a guarantee of a certain number of hotel room nights and food and beverage expenditures by the organization's guests.
"We don't know, yet," Warrior said of reduced attendance over the boycott. "We know some people aren't coming."
The local host committee posted a statement on the NAISA website saying, "Despite the passing of the bill we remain committed to hosting the NAISA 2010 conference in defiance of legislation that would have us justify our existence on our homelands."
K Tsianina Lomawaima, a University of Arizona professor of American Indian Studies and the NAISA member leading the local conference arrangements, could not be reached for comment.
Arizona is particularly vulnerable now because of its economy, and it has been working hard to compete with California, New Mexico and Florida for conference and meeting business, said Bill Petrella, general manager of the Westin La Paloma.
"We're on the short list, and all of a sudden, they're ruling Arizona out," he said. "The odds are that there are going to be some people who have problems with this legislation" in almost any group, Petrella said.
Overall, Arizona could be feeling effects from the boycott until 2013, said the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association's Jarnagin. "It's not going to be just a short-term effect. Some groups book their meetings two, three, four years in advance."
WANT TO COUNTERACT THE BOYCOTT?
The Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association is doing a summer promotion to encourage Arizonans to take in-state "staycations."
The effort includes an online auction of summer stays at resort hotels. The Discover Arizona Online Auction starts Friday at 8 a.m. at www.discoverazvacations.com
"It's not to take a position" on the immigration law, said Kristen Jarnagin, the trade group's spokeswoman.
Typical resorts employ 500 to 1,000 people, she said. "It's not the general manager or the legislator that's going to lose their job if you boycott Arizona," she said. "The employees are just trying to make a living."
The West Hollywood City Council voted 5-0 this week to boycott Arizona, while the San Diego City Council voted 7-1 to urge Arizona lawmakers to repeal the new immigration law. Also, Boston's City Council is expected to vote today on a resolution calling for Massachusetts to pull any investments from Arizona, The Associated Press reported.
There has been some positive response to the legislation, including a couple of Los Angeles radio stations that are doing remote broadcasts from Phoenix and asking their listeners to come along in support of Arizona, said the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association.
Contact reporter Dan Sorenson at 573-4185 or firstname.lastname@example.org