Hundreds of Millions of Dollars at Risk Thanks to HB2
HB2 has pushed groups to cancel events and conventions in Charlotte and around the state. These cancellations result in losses to local business of hotels, restaurants, and other toursit expenditures that the state economy won't see a dime of. This discriminatory law's existence risks crucial opportunities for jobs and business until Governor McCrory makes calls for the repeal of HB2.
The fallout from HB2 could translate into a loss of “multiple millions” of dollars in visitor spending to the region, White said. The law passed last month killed a Charlotte ordinance that protected gay and transgender rights.
Meanwhile, one Republican state legislator said Saturday that the furor over HB2 hasn’t been ignored by GOP lawmakers.
“We’re not politically naive to say that these very public announcements and public decisions are not considered and weighed by all elected officials,” Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville said. “Everybody is always concerned about economic impacts and things of that nature that effect the economies of local communities. I can tell you there are obviously a lot of conversations going on now in the Republican caucus and General Assembly.”
The four cancellations, White said, came from groups with events booked at Charlotte hotels. She said the moves are a reaction to HB2.
The Virginia-based Southern Sociological Society, which had booked its yearly meeting in 2019 at The Westin Charlotte, canceled because it believes the new law is discriminatory, said society President Barbara Risman.
“I represent our entire executive council in expressing our distress that North Carolina has passed a law that discriminates against people based on sexual orientation and gender expression,” Risman wrote the Westin shortly after legislators passed the bill and Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law. “Unfortunately, that makes North Carolina a state where we cannot hold our annual meetings. Just when we had decided that Charlotte was such a great place to meet that we would come every four years, we are now canceling our contract.”
Risman, head of the sociology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said her group would be “thrilled” to meet in Charlotte again if the law is revoked.
Wider economic consequences
David Montgomery, the Westin’s area sales and marketing manager, said the cancellation is an $180,000 loss to the hotel, but it has wider economic consequences. The people scheduled to attend won’t be eating in restaurants or bars, won’t be buying tickets to attractions, renting cars or hailing cabs, Montgomery said.
He said 11 other groups have inquired about canceling reservations at the Westin because of HB2. If they go, the hotel would stand to lose as much as $4 million, he said.
“They are concerned that speakers may not want to come here, and that their attendance may suffer because of the law,” Montgomery said. “These conventions or meetings are the biggest source of revenue for these groups for the year. If their attendance suffers, they get concerned.”
White of the CRVA said the nine groups that have decided to go elsewhere were “far into the consideration state” for Charlotte. “We’ve got relationships with (the 29 groups) and are still actively pursuing them to come to Charlotte,” she said. “But they are definitely on the concerned list.”
If they all snub Charlotte, the region would stand to lose more than 103,000 hotel nights, a substantial number, White said.
She said all the groups on the concerned list represent professional associations, trade shows and corporate events, including the 2017 NBA All-star game.