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Much damage to Arizona's image is self-inflicted

Arizona finding that bad PR is even bigger problem than illegal immigration

Michael Sheridan  Jul 06, 2010

Arizona is finding it's got another problem even bigger than illegal immigration.

Bad public relations.

Arizona has been hampered by nationwide boycotts and protests over the state's tough new immigration law, and Gov. Jan Brewer hopes $250,000 in state funds will help improve the state's public image.

The outspoken governor also approved the funding for the state last week to combat tourist's perception that the state is too dangerous to visit because of the escalating drug war near the Mexican border.

The $250,000 will come from the state's Department of Commerce, with the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association offering up another $30,000.

Much of the damage to the state's image has been self-inflicted, according to a report released last week.

According to the Tourism & Economic Development Task Force, Gov. Brewer and other politicians need to stop making Arizona out to be unsafe if they want to bring back visitors.

The state must "provide facts that inform potential visitors/meeting planners and the general public that Arizona is a safe and welcoming destination," the task force said in its report.

The state must also directly address the boycotts which have targeted the state, and "change the tone of the dialogue to reflect the true implications and tangible effects" they have on residents and businesses.

Arizona's SB 1070, a law passed in April which is expected to go into effect at the end of July, would require police to ask about a suspect's immigration status.

Detractors have feared the law would lead to racial profiling, while defenders say it is necessary to battle illegal immigration which has plagued the state.

"The information that we're giving to support [the new immigration law] in our state is that there's massive crime happening here and (we're the) kidnapping capital," Kristen Jarnagin, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, told the Arizona Daily Star. "And those don't help tourism."

The task force recommended that part of Arizona's PR effort should immediately include SB 1070 "fact sheets" to help communicate the details of the law more effectively. An outside public relations firm would also be needed to better "manage the existing dialogue and clarify the facts regarding" the law.

Arizona finding that bad PR is even bigger problem than illegal immigration
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